There’s two things you need to know about Under the Great White Northern Lights, the White Stripes’ new film, which documents their summer 2007 tour to the far reaches of Canada:
1. The film — premiered for select viewers in NYC Thursday — is probably fans’ only chance to ever watch Jack White have a conversation about muskox hunting with the mayor of Yellow Knife, a small town of about 20,000 people just south of the Arctic Circle. It’s weird, one-of-a-kind scenes like this that make this film a true gem.
“We wanted to play out of the way towns that don’t usually get shows,” Jack explains of the band’s first Canadian tour. “The shows are better, it’s better for the people, it’s a better experience, it’s way more unique, something interesting is going to happen… hopefully.”
Interesting is the theme: There’s footage of Jack and Meg performing on a city bus in Toronto, playing a one-note show in Whitehorse, commanding the military to fire a cannon in Nova Scotia, and rocking out on a fishing boat, in a flour mill, a bowling alley, pool hall, and numerous recreation centers — and many of the special gigs were announced less an hour before show time on local rock radio stations.
In another scene, the duo play an acoustic version of Blind Willie McTell’s “Lord, Send Me an Angel” for Inuit elders, and in another Jack is swigging from a bottle of Jameson in a vintage car at midnight after a show, and says, “Um, I can’t believe it’s still light out!” The performance highlight: The band’s tour-closing, 10th-anniversary gig in Nova Scotia. Director Emmett Malloy captures the band at their gritty, rockin’ best — see a raucous “Seven Nation Army” — in a show that logs as their longest ever.
Below, watch an exclusive clip of the duo exploring the coast of Nova Scotia while a live recording of “We’re Going To Be Friends” plays in the background.
Under the Great White Northern Lights‘ unique footage will have fans’ eyes glued to the screen for the film’s entire 100-plus minutes. But there’s more…
2. Given that this was shot mere weeks before the Stripes canceled their fall/winter tour, due to the drummer’s “acute anxiety,” speculation is bound to ensue. Meg only mutters a few hushed sentences in the whole film, but that’s no huge surprise — she’s always been Teller to Jack’s hyperverbal Penn. But those looking for morose moments may find them: In one scene she lays lifeless on a couch sucking down cigarette after cigarette, and another, she shakily apologizes to Jack for her poor playing.
At one point, Jack even addresses her silence, explaining that Meg does in fact talk and that he doesn’t always act as the band’s mouthpiece. Next, in a moment of dark humor, Jack proceeds to raise his voice and talk right over her.
And in the final scene — spoiler alert! — Meg breaks down in tears as Jack plays a solo version of “White Moon” on a grand piano. The two embrace as film closes out on an emotional note.
Under the Great White Northern Lights officially premieres today, September 18, at the Toronto Film Festival. More release details have yet-to-be announced.
WATCH: The White Stripes, Under the Great White Northern Lights Clip