Sunday, April 6, 2008
I suspect Martin Scorsese’s greatly anticipated Shine a Light will disappoint a lot of people. Anyone hoping to find a probing documentary into the world of The Rolling Stones or the minds of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards is bound to be a let down, but for fans looking for another reminder that The Rolling Stones are still one of the most savagely vital and brilliant bands on the planet will be overjoyed by the time the credits role on this incredible film.
Shot over a two night stand at New York’s intimate Beacon Theater at the end of their wildly successful A Bigger Bang tour in front of a crowd of absolutely rabid fans, Scorsese’s film captures the band in furious, splendid and absolutely breathtaking mode.
The two biggest attributes to Shine a Light are, not surprisingly, the music itself and Scorsese’s innate understanding of how much story he can tell through the faces of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood. Shine a Light works as one of the most close up examinations of a great rock band ever filmed and if the portions of archival footage Scorsese incorporates is thrilling, nothing is more telling that the many studies of Jagger and the rest of the band’s faces throughout the film. The stories Jagger and crew are not telling ARE told in a very moving and poignant way through Scorsese’s amazing filming style, which has to be seen in its current Imax theatrical showings for full effect.
Opening with a black and white segment documenting Scorsese’s trouble getting the production together due to Jagger’s refusal to give him a final set list (something I suspect was played up for dramatic effect by both artists) before switching to the gorgeous eye popping color photography of Academy Award winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, Shine A Light kicks into gear with the familiar but always welcome chords of Jumping Jack Flash and doesn’t let up in its two hour plus running time. It’s the kind of adrenaline rush that only Rock n Roll can deliver but so rarely does anymore.
The band is in absolute top form all the way through the film and while the set list still doesn’t delve into too many rarities from their catalogue, the Stones do pull enough surprises to please even the most jaded fan.
Highlights include a sizzling She Was Hot (never one of their best songs but the joy these guys are feeling playing it is palatable), an extended Just My Imagination, Keith doing You Got The Silver sans guitar and Mick turning absolutely demonic on Sympathy For The Devil.
The three duets spread throughout the film are also expertly chosen and constitute some of the best moments in the film as well. An awe struck Jack White does a transcendent version of Loving Cup with Jagger (watch the for the great moment where Jack switches mics so he can sing right next to Mick) and a deliciously seedy Live With Me with a surprisingly great Christina Aguilera.
The best moment of the film occurs when Blues legend Buddy Guy takes the stage for an absolutely jaw dropping Champagne and Reefer. The whole band and Guy just absolutely slaughter this ode to getting high and being left alone with a visibly floored and teary eyed Keith handing Guy his guitar at the song’s conclusion. It’s the kind of moment that only The Rolling Stones could deliver and that only Marty could film, with one prolonged close up of Guy marking one of the most chilling filmed moments of the decade.
I was disappointed that Scorsese just chose to have the legendary title track played just over the credits and the archival footage is so randomly chosen and placed that it never really feels completely organic to the film (that said the footage seen here, including some shots from the legendary Charlie Is My Darling, is fantastic). Minor problems aside, Shine a Light takes its place with the best concert films The Stones have ever shot and is their finest since 1971’s Cocksucker Blues.
I suspect the DVD will have a ton of extras as I wouldn’t be surprised if Scorsese struggled to get this down to 2 hours. A moving dedication to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun is included and it must be noted that some of the handheld camera work in the film is courtesy of Gimme Shelter filmmaker Albert Maysles himself.
Shine a Light is one of the best experiences you can have at a theater this year so don’t miss it if it is playing at an Imax near you. I feel really honored that I got to see The Stones on this tour in person and getting to see Scorsese’s film on the big screen was a grand companion to that experience.