Review: ‘The White Stripes Under Great Northern Lights’

'The White Stripes Under Great Northern

Even those who are only casually enthusiastic about the duo will enjoy the skillfully assembled doc.

The previously converted will be thrilled by concert-plus docu “The White Stripes Under Great Northern Lights,” while those who are only casually enthusiastic or indifferent toward the headlining rock duo will nonetheless enjoy Emmett Malloy’s skillfully assembled footage from their 2007 Canadian tour. Good-looking, largely B&W feature could attract the odd theatrical gig, though primary exposure lies in home formats directly accessing fans.

Why ersatz siblings Jack and Meg White’s decade-old musical project has triumphed commercially where other retro-minded acts (like Flat Duo Jets) haven’t remains a bit of a mystery. But there’s no begrudging their success as loquacious guitarist/singer/songwriter Jack and near-mute drummer Meg (no talker, she requires subtitling during rare sotto voce musings) tour behind 2007’s acclaimed album “Icky Thump.” Discontented by prior Canadian fly-bys, they committed to visiting every Great Northern province and region, as well as doing short-notice free shows in venues ranging from a bowling alley to YMCA day camp to Inuit senior center. While the black-white-and-red-clad duo’s mystique survives intact, there’s some backstage insight. Originals come off better than covers, with “Jolene” best left to Dolly Parton.

The White Stripes Under Great Northern Lights

Production

A Three Foot Giant and Woodshed Films production in association with Warner Bros. Records. Produced by Mike Sarkissian. Directed by Emmett Malloy.

Crew

Camera (B&W/color, HD), Giles Dunning; editor, Tim Wheeler; music, the White Stripes. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Vanguard), Sept. 15, 2009. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Jack White, Meg White.

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