The Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page is the envy of guitar players, and nonplayers, the world over. Mike D of the Beastie Boys expressed the wishful thinking of many when he boasted in a rap, “If I played guitar I’d be Jimmy Page.”
No one understands this better, it happens, than Akio Sakurai, a Japanese musician who has devoted decades to playing guitar in the varying modes that Page applied in his years as Led Zeppelin’s lead instrumentalist. He recalls one day off from his job as a kimono salesman, seeing the Zep concert film “The Song Remains The Same,” and being mesmerized by the power of Page’s playing. He became obsessed with recreating it.
The first hour of the movie contains lots of guitar wonkiness as Sakurai, nicknamed “Mr. Jimmy,” consults with technicians, working on getting his own axes and amps as close to Page’s gear as he can. After Mr. Jimmy elaborates on the idiosyncrasies of Les Paul guitar pickup guards, one of the artisans he works with comments, “We understand Jimmy’s obsession. It’s very Japanese.”
The film, directed by Peter Michael Dowd, centers on Sakurai’s upending his life to move to Los Angeles and install himself in a Zep tribute band; he lasts a couple of years, leaving because the other members didn’t share his single-mindedness in reproducing Page’s onstage work.
“That is the meaning of tribute. Not showing myself at all. There is no ‘me’ to begin with,” Sakurai, who is now 59, says at one point. This is a terrifying notion, but the movie doesn’t choose to run with it, instead sticking to Mr. Jimmy’s career travails in the States before landing with a “Spinal Tap”-redolent happy ending.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. In theaters.