Under Great White Northern Lights [DVD] review by The White Stripes

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  • Released: Mar 16, 2010
  • Sound: 10
  • Content: 7
  • Production Quality: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.4 (28 votes)
The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights [DVD]
3

Sound — 10
After releasing their sixth album Icky Thump back in 2007, the White Stripes ventured out to an area that had surprisingly been missed over the course of their touring career: the massive expanse of Canada. But in the midst of covering each province/territory, Jack and Meg White approached that tour with an unusual twist. Along with the traditional concerts, the duo would show up everywhere from a bus to a bowling alley to an Indian Legion Facility. Filmmaker Emmett Malloy was on hand to chronicle the experience for the documentary Under Great White Northern Lights, which not only provides a closer look at the Canadian tour, but it also sheds light on the idiosyncratic dynamic between Meg and Jack. The 93-minute film includes clips from 19 songs highlighting the styles that the White Stripes have explored over the past decade, whether it is the blues (Let's Shake Hands, Apple Blossom, Catch Hell Blues) or forward-thinking rock (Blue Orchid, Icky Thump). While it's always interesting to catch a glimpse of Jack getting lost in the moment during a concert, Under Great White Northern Lights reveals a more personal side to the singer/guitarist's performance with tracks like Lord Send Me An Angel. That particular song is performed at an Inuit elders' home, and it's easily one of the most heartfelt scenes in the entire film. There is always slightly an element of Jack as the mysterious rocker, even during the interviews, but it's when he is surrounded by an appreciative Inuit audience that he becomes approachable and down-to-earth. For all of us who have been intrigued by the Jack-Meg relationship, the picture becomes slightly clearer after viewing Under Great White Northern Lights. The topic of Meg's quietness is broached even the rumor that Jack won't let her talk in interviews. After seeing the film, it becomes pretty evident that Meg hates to talk at any given time. When she finally does, Malloy often uses subtitles to translate Meg's hushed conversation. Another buzz subject discussed is the importance of image within the White Stripes, and Jack's answer is candid and insightful although you can tell he's annoyed that some publications are so quick to paint his band into a corner. The pinnacle of the film arrives as the band celebrates its 10th anniversary, and there is brief reflection on the evolution of its approach to music. The White Stripes are in Nova Scotia for their anniversary concert, and their slide-fueled rendition of Son House's Death Letter is a standout performance. Even so, it's in the final moments when the true heart and soul of the band quietly eases its way into the film. Jack takes a seat next to Meg and the piano, and he proceeds to serenade her with White Moon. In the final few seconds of the film, the true connection of Meg and Jack finally comes to light emotion finally pours through the White Stripes workhorse mentality.

Content — 7
For White Stripes fans, a behind-the-scenes look at the usually private Meg and Jack might be all that they require. That's a good thing, particularly given that the copy we received did not include any extras. There is a nice balance between musical content, interviews, and general documentary footage during the film, making for an engaging piece. Yes, it would have been nice to hear Meg talk a tad more, but again, that doesn't seem to be her favorite activity.

Production Quality — 9
Filmed primarily with a few 16mm cameras, the overall look of Under Great White Northern Lights reflects the stark surroundings that the band encountered during their tour of Canada. If you want to take that idea even further, that black-and-white footage keeps in line with the White Stripes' limited color scheme. The editing was completed skillfully, with a wide variety of performances intertwined into the storytelling.

Overall Impression — 9
The White Stripes will always be somewhat of an enigma in the rock world, but Under Great White Northern Lights finally offers a glimpse of the real man and woman behind the famous band. From the b-roll footage alone, you can see the absolute obsession that Jack White has for his music. And Meg? She's usually waiting off to the side during those moments of musical obsession, but Meg just sitting in a chair watching Jack speaks volumes in itself. As a complete documentary, the honest storytelling and compelling soundtrack make it a success.

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Cookie_Dog
    It's definitely a great behind the scenes look at the White Stripes. I really dig their ragged/intense approach to live shows.
    Kylianvb
    Amazing.. I absolutely loved the last scene, so much emotion in that one.
    guitarslave599
    fenderarmy wrote: jannick wrote: give up white stripes -.- Quit life.
    They aren't trying hard enough to give up. They're playing what they love and what they want to play. Not what we want. That is what makes them stick out.
    Noremad
    I've watched UNDER GREAT WHITE NORTHERN LIGHTS three times since it's release. It's a really good docu-concert for any White Stripes fan. Jack & Meg Rule!
    scimitar_255
    Saw them on this tour in Winnipeg. I'm not a Winnipeg local, so I had no chance of catching their secret show (which was on a bus, I believe), but it was extraordinary nontheless
    alex-33
    Isn't Jack married to a model now? I wonder how she feels about him and Meg... But that doesn't matter. Jack is still an amazing guitarist and vocalist so I'm not dissin'
    gibbfg
    The man's a genius. really is the modern day equivalent of all the greats who've since died. The hendrixs, gallagher, lynott, i could go on. This, plus the 'it could get loud' documentary really highlighted jack white as a proper blues/rock/soul man. He's more than just the music. It's in him. Especially compared to the Edge(twat) and Jimmy Page(a tad strange,but a great guitarist nontheless), JW just seemed leagues ahead.
    stndrdprcdre
    Not really a fan of the white stripes. Stumbled apon this very well-written review and now I'm compelled to go buy the DVD just out of curiosity. Excellent review.
    Altered_Carbon
    I LOVE THE WHITE STRIPES Probably the best modern day blues interpreters With kickass original songs to boot Seems like a good DVD package, rather than the slap-dash shit a lot of bands put out for the medium, think I'll pick it up.
    chmeager22
    love the white stripes. Jack White is one of the reasons i started playing guitar more often and now that ive read this review i really want to get this DVD
    Taargus
    I seriously loved this. I preordered it and watched it as soon as I got it in the mail. It did not at all disappoint.
    BrixDK
    dlangmead wrote: question... if you dont like the Stripes, then why did you read and comment on an article...TOTALLY written and addressing that particular band. I mean... that makes no social sense at all it seems.
    Because it's easier to hate than to love for most people, therefore, it's easier for them to make an effort doing something bad & pointless, than spreading good vibes. People are ****ing goofy and full of shit. White Stripes are great, Jack's one of the most dedicated and impulsive rock musicians of our time.
    samuraimusaki
    chmeager22 wrote: love the white stripes. Jack White is one of the reasons i started playing guitar more often and now that ive read this review i really want to get this DVD
    I never used to listen to any good music (*cough* Rock *cough*) and these guys were one of the bands that introduced me to it (although the Chilis were my first decent band) and now, because of this guy, I started played guitar. I even got a red and white guitar. EASILY my favourite guitarist. On another note, he might not have the speed of Slash, but, in my opinion, he sounds WAY better.
    YamiJoey
    guitarslave599 wrote: They're playing what they love and what they want to play. Not what we want.
    Speak for yourself...
    ledzep#1
    everybody who hates on a band that shows you how their musical process runs is just shutting the door to their own progress. It always helps to see how a successful band comes up with new songs and keeps refreshing old ones, even after a decade together. I listen to music that I don't like all the time because I like to look at how the band arranges the music and their take on different parts of it. This documentary can be a good learning experience in terms of musicianship even for those who don't like the White Stripes.
    espChris93
    wow the fact people would rather make obscene jokes about a phenomenal and original duo such as meg and jack without appreciating any of their work or at least reading the damn article they clicked shows how apathetic and ignorant our world really is
    dlangmead
    and also, again... they are not brother and sister. your "Incest" jokes have been filed under "Fail Blog"
    dlangmead
    question... if you dont like the Stripes, then why did you read and comment on an article...TOTALLY written and addressing that particular band. I mean... that makes no social sense at all it seems.
    Univibe
    fenderarmy wrote: jannick wrote: give up white stripes -.- Quit life.
    +1
    GS LEAD 5
    JDizzle787 wrote: adj209 wrote: I wish i could try to give them an unbiased listen but Jack White is a douche and that suspected incest was retarded. she's not really his sister... and apparently this documentary is saying it proves jacks not a douche?
    Matter of opinion.....don't like WS much myself.....
    WhiteStripesIII
    ^Pretty much does, he comes of as a pretty nice guy in it. Well worth the watch, really interesting and there's some cracking performances in it.
    JDizzle787
    adj209 wrote: I wish i could try to give them an unbiased listen but Jack White is a douche and that suspected incest was retarded.
    she's not really his sister... and apparently this documentary is saying it proves jacks not a douche?
    adj209
    I wish i could try to give them an unbiased listen but Jack White is a douche and that suspected incest was retarded.