"Under Great White Northern Lights" is half concert film, half behind the scenes look at one of the great American bands of the modern era, The White Stripes. After failing to truly tour Canada throughout the majority of their 10 year existence as a band, the Stripes decided to go all out with a tour that saw them play in every single Canadian province. As part of their fun, they brought along music video director Emmett Malloy to film the experience and give the fans a glance behind the curtain.
Let me level with you by saying I'm a White Stripes disciple. What front man Jack White does with every album, every song, every line, I consider to be complete genius. He is perhaps the most talented man in the world right now, a guy who is sickeningly good at pretty much everything he puts his mind to. Anytime I see an expose on Jack, I come away thinking that whatever talent of his that he considers to be the 38th best thing that he does, would be better than my number one best skill. So I am far from unbiased when I say that "UGWNL" is an outstanding example of what a concert film/band documentary could and should be. Malloy gives us an insight into the minds of the Jack and Meg without giving them too much leeway to show the negative side of artistry. At the same time, he gives us snippets of show footage without letting the whole thing turn into a glorified recorded concert. It's a brilliant mix that keeps the audience zoned in on what's happening while showing off just how special this band really is. Malloy also chooses the songs he uses very carefully without relying on the band's more well-known hits and thereby displays the versatility and diversity of the Stripes.
Jack and Meg, meanwhile, hold up their part of the bargain by delivering in every single scene, be it concert or interview segment. The raw energy and intensity they bring to the stage is matched only in the way they (Jack especially) think and work on their sound off of it. Everything about the Stripes is a paradox of sorts. They take the stage without a set list yet put more thought into what they will play than just about any other band. Their sound is often raw and sometimes unrefined and yet at the same time it is so much more advanced than what you get from most rock artists. Everything about the band is both complex and simple all at once and that same dynamic works in the off stage dynamic between Jack and Meg, a relationship that "UGWNL" so graciously gives us a glimpse of. This is a must-see for any Stripes fan and a should-see for anyone who wants to better understand the mind of a genius.