“Where’s the show guys?” asks an eager fan as he follows the mob-like crowd to Saint John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, a province in Canada. There is a strong sense of eagerness in the air as dozens upon dozens of people gather by a stage and on nearby porches of two story buildings to obtain a better look at what is to come. A black car then drives up and the crowd is given what they want as Jack and Meg White enter the scene. The two gather on stage, instruments at hand, play a single note and then leave. The fans go wild. This “One-Note Show,” as it has been referred to as, kicks off the White Stripes’ tour across Canada.
In the summer of 2007, director Emmet Malloy accompanied the duo during their tour across Canada in an effort to document their first time in this country, a place that Jack White jokes “is the only country that they have been turned away from.” In the film, Under the Great White Northern Lights, Malloy brilliantly captures live concert footage as well as moments with Jack and Meg that is enough to satisfy any fan.
From bowling alleys, to boats, to actual concert halls, Under the Great White Northern Lights is a mesmerizing watch; Malloy seems to have documented all the film worthy moments as The White Stripes visited every province and territory of Canada. As usual, The White Stripes deliver incredible live performances; they don’t need any pyro or dazzling special effects to bring life to the concert, for their music alone is enough to satisfy. Watching Jack White perform with his guitar is simply mind blowing and entrancing. “The music is really completely in charge of us,” says Jack White in the film, and his words are proven to be true with all of his fantastically delivered guitar solos. Malloy’s camera work is amazing and looks deserving of any magazine cover. The wise decision of using the band’s colors, white and red, as camera filters add a very unique feel to the concerts. Not only do the filters act as a tribute to the band, but they also add incredible artistic depth to the moments captured on film.
Something to admire about the film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. As a documentary, Emmet allows the films’ focus to be solely on the band and he doesn’t attempt to over complicate by trying to persuade the viewer that the band is great. Malloy, instead, shows the viewer that they are outstanding by allowing the film to speak through the music and through the band members. Something Malloy does, and does very well, is allow the movie to be strictly about Jack and Meg, as a band and most importantly, as people.
While most “rockumentaries” display bands as musicians, Malloy cleverly allows the band members to act as characters in his film. We have Jack, a jokester and a passionate musician. Then, we have Meg, who just sits there, rarely contributing to any interview or conversation. Even during the few times she speaks, it is quiet and easy to miss. In fact, she speaks so quietly that subtitles are placed every time she speaks. (Ironically, and comically, Malloy presents a clip of Meg standing next to a sign that reads: “make some noise.”) Throughout the film, during the off stage moments, we are presented with Jack playing music and Meg simply smoking, delving into her own thoughts. It’s quite compelling actually, for you never are sure of what is going through her mind. “I’m quiet, what can I say?” Though she doesn’t say much, she is the most interesting character on screen. Meg proves that much can be said with no words. While Jack plays White Moon at the end of the film, Meg is brought to tears. This is a beautiful and intriguing scene and it only adds to the ambiguity of Meg, although we are never really presented with a reason for this.
From Icky Thump to Seven Nation Army, Malloy’s film Under the Great White Northern Lights is a fine “rockumentary.” It presents the band with their highly entertaining and enthralling performances. As uplifting and energizing as the film is, it will undoubtedly have White Stripe Fans begging for “one more note.”
Ivan R. GudinoJust Published: