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Watching Under Great White Northern Lights | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

Watching Under Great White Northern Lights

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I didn’t even like the White Stripes that much yet I watched their film Under Great White Northern Lights three times. It is quite telling that a band can present tour footage from three years ago and feel just as relevant today as when they first played. There’s a question in our digital age about timelessness. Is it possible for anything to stay relevant past the initial buzz. Listening and seeing the White Stripes I would suggest yes.

I might be a bit biased about the film as it plays out across Canada. They made point of visiting cities and towns that almost never get attention. It shed some light on some of the smaller places that had the chance to show others in the media what they have to offer. I remember hearing stories about some of their stunts as it was happening as they toured. They would play a free small concert during the day before the played a bigger gig at night. Probably the funniest footage was them playing in a bus, bowling alley (in my home city no less), and a boat in quick succession. While it my read a little gimmicky it actually was pure genius. I can’t really think of any other band that would try such a thing.

As a movie to show off sound, there was plenty of music. But there were small pockets of silence played out perfectly. After playing a concert in the Yukon in the midlle of summer they left the concert hall before midnight in a completely sunny sky. As they jumped into the car with sound of the door closing the absurdity of the brightness was apparent. They also played out the colour to their full advantage. There was washed out colour which reminded me of old CBC documentaries and more recent black and white filters, both types of colour locked it in to a period of time that will make it feel as though it could have been filmed yesterday or ten years ago.

The film plays for about an hour and a half. By the end of it I wished it had been a lot longer. I suppose that’s a nod to how good I thought it was. I was left wishing there had been more. I would be surprised if this kind of thing happened in Canda where a band took it upon themeselves to travel to parts of the country that no one really pays attention. For that reason alone I was happy to watch it, the fact that it was really great was an added bonous.

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