The Art House Beat: Lorna is Silent; Jimmy Page and Jack White Are Loud.
Lorna is a different kind of femme fatale. She has neither personality nor good looks, and drags herself through life as if it were an obstacle course, most of the obstacles being people. “Lorna’s Silence” (playing at the Varsity theater from Aug. 29-Sept 4) is about those obstacles, and overcoming the moral issues surrounding their removal. Arta Dobroshi plays Lorna with a detachment that recalls Catherine Deneuve in “Repulsion,” but without that actresss’s placid charisma. Dobroshi’s face and body’s are boring, almost inanimate, and her Lorna is just a nondescript person going about her sordid business.
An Albanian refugee who has married a junkie to obtain Belgian citizenship, she now has to discard the husband, either by divorce or murder, so that she can marry a Russian gangster to get the money to go into business with her boyfriend Sokol. Her plan is to get husband Claudy off dope, then kill him with an overdose. While he is suffering from dehydration during heroin withdrawal, she gets so irritated that she splashes a little into a dog dish and puts it on the floor for him to lap up. This is as close as she gets to compassion. Yet she is hesitant about committing murder, feeling that hitting herself in the face a few times in order to get a divorce on grounds of physical abuse is the better route. But the mobsters behind the paper marriage business believe that it is better for their marriage mule to be widowed than divorced.
Dobroshi is in almost every shot of the film, and one gets sick of looking at her sullen, expressionless face. The sibling writing/directing team of Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne, have abandoned the up-tempo pace of their earlier “L”Enfant” for the dreary rhythms of last year’s Romanian art house hit, “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.” This film is far better than that piece of sludge, but it is still pretty mucky, the only sign of life in the entire palette being Lorna’s red pants.
Any selection of representative guitarists from the last three major phases of rock music is going to be controversial. Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White would not rate high as candidates for my own dream documentary on the art of the electric guitar. But director David Guggenheim knew what he was doing when he chose to profile them in “It Might Get Loud,” a film that succeeds not only in sharing different approaches to the instrument, but offers some insight into the personalities that have driven Led Zeppelin, U2, and The White Stripes.
Page is the elegant elder statesman, tossing off classic riffs with the casual flair of a sleight-of-hand artist. White is the enthusiastic kid who wants to learn every riff in his record collection just to share the music he loves with the rest of the world. Then there is The Edge, a mediocre player who beefs up his simplistic ideas with technology. One of the first things he does is dig out some old U2 demos to play for Page and White. When he boasts that a particular song can be counted in either three or six, he fails to impress, as both Page and White are clearly more familiar with 6/8 time than he. In a more self-deprecating moment, he demonstrates one of his famous licks without the effects, chuckling that it is really a very simple idea. Finally, he reveals his general musical incompetence while the three are jamming on The Band’s “The Weight,” when he realizes he has been playing a wrong chord in this very simple progression.
If The Edge is an idiot, he is representative of a new breed of guitarists who begin their careers with a weak musical foundation and rely on gimmicks to give them style. Page, on the other hand, is one of those guitarists who, like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, invented a personal sound by experimenting with settings on their pickups and amplifiers. He is more open and relaxed about his music than the guarded and self-conscious Edge. White is the enthusiastic kid that you want to tell to shut up, but eventually accept just because he is so excited about everything. His music has been categorized as retro because he returns to the roots of the blues for his inspiration and prefers a raw sound to high-tech set-ups. The film begins with him building a very primitive guitar that would probably terrify somebody like The Edge if he got too close to it.
White’s adulation of Page reminded me of a night I was sitting at the table next to Elvis Costello at a club date by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. I had never in my life seen a more enthusiastic fan of a musician than Costello was of McGuinn that night. Until, that is, the scene in “It Might Get Loud” when White beams while Page plays. Most good musicians are fascinated by the means other musicians use to create the sounds they get. Guggenheim not only captures this mutual admiration, but draws the audience into the inner circle as well. When it is over, there is nothing to do but go home and plug in.
(“It Might Get Loud” begins an open-ended run at the Egyptian on Friday, August 28th.)