Some A-list actors get treated like rock stars at film festivals, but when the real rock stars arrive, it’s another level of fandom.
Jimmy Page, the 77-year-old lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, received a hero’s welcome in Venice on Saturday, where “Becoming Led Zeppelin,” the band’s first proper documentary since the band’s conception in 1968, premiered to bursts of rapturous applause across its 137-minute runtime.
The film received a standing ovation that may have broken “Dune’s” six-minute Venice record had it not been for Page cutting the fanfare short at three minutes and politely exiting.
Simona Ripamonti was among a group of Led heads awaiting the rock icon — the only one of the three remaining band members to come to Venice — on the red carpet, clad in the band’s signature T-shirt. But Ripamonti went the extra mile.
Her polyester black jacket was hand-painted with a fiery red and orange dragon and Page’s cryptic symbol from the band’s fourth album. Her jeans also featured another dragon painted along her left pant leg.
“I think they’re the most important band in the universe. This outfit is inspired by Jimmy Page,” she tells Variety, referencing the guitarist’s eclectic sense of style.
Ripamonti and her friends have travelled from Milan and Torino, respectively, to catch a glimpse of Page and watch the movie, which she first heard about over Instagram when its completion was first announced last month. She’s already aware that the film isn’t a typical documentary, and opts instead for a scrapbook-style presentation, with the band narrating the whole movie themselves.
“It’s like a musical and a documentary,” declares Ripamonti. “I couldn’t wait to see it. I’d like to see the boys of Led Zeppelin from the past.”
Prior to the film, Page was clearly overcome by his reception and after two minutes of a standing ovation, during which ecstatic fans punched their fists in the air and shouted his name, he brought out his smartphone to take a video of the audience and his team.
During the film, the audience erupted in even more applause and cheers after hit songs — most of which were depicted in full — came to an end. The screening had extra security in place, with phones and all laptops placed in plastic bags and taped up before anyone was allowed to enter the Sala Grande.
Though Page is the focus of “Becoming Led Zeppelin,” directed by Bernard MacMahon and produced by Allison McGourty, one could argue that John “Bonzo” Bonham, the band’s late, great drummer, whose death in 1980 prompted Led Zeppelin to break up after 12 years together, is the real star.
The audio recording of his interview with an Australian journalist, which took one whole year to uncover among 30,000 recordings at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, brings the musician to life in an unprecedented way.
“I wanted to see Bonzo,” says Ripamonti. “I’ve never seen or heard him talk. It’s a good opportunity to understand all the things they went through that first year.”