April 28, 2008

Stones' Doc Shines Bright

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For thousands of dollars less than the StubHub price of a front-row ticket, you can experience the Rolling Stones like you’ve never seen them before: On the big screen.
Legendary director Martin Scorcese teams up with Britain’s most famous 60 year-old rock stars to deliver Shine A Light, a documentary that offers a glimpse into one very star-studded day in the lives of band members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood. But for Scorcese and the Stones, the 2006 concert at the Beacon Theater in New York was more than just another night on the job.
Armed with a full squad of cameras, but at the mercy of the band’s unpredictability and elusive set list, Scorcese pulled out all the stops to capture the explosiveness of the concert as realistically as possible. While there is no substitute for the real thing, Shine A Light comes awfully close to replicating the energy and excitement of the live show. The film covers all of the angles and catches every detail as it lifts us out of the standing-room-only crowd and plops us down into the best seat in the house —onstage with the Stones. The result is a truly incredible cinematic experience that takes concert watching to new heights.
As if they needed any introduction, the Stones got more than they bargained for with Martin Scorcese as the opening act. Before the first note is even played, the film begins with a montage of pre-concert preparations, band rehearsals and behind-the-scenes footage of the stars (Scorcese and the Stones) that provides energy and builds anticipation for the start of the show. As always, Scorcese’s charisma and sense of humor finds its way into the film, with lines like, “We cannot burn Mick Jagger!” drawing laughs. Portraying himself as more of a character than a director, Scorcese decides to add a grainy effect to the introduction and “paint it black” (and white), giving the film’s opening the look and feel of archival documentary footage. And if Martin Scorcese isn’t enough, a special appearance by the Clinton family (Bill, Hillary and co.) sets the stage for the true stars to make their grand entrance.
And a grand entrance it is — pure Rolling Stones. In one very hectic moment, the final set list reaches Scorcese the exact moment that the opening bars of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” begin — the show begins with a little extra bang. From this point on, we are treated to nearly two hours of all-access Rolling Stones, complete with old interviews, commercials, newsreels and unbelievable shots of the band’s onstage dynamics that simply cannot be seen by somebody in the crowd. Close-ups of the band’s interactions with the audience and with one another from the Beacon Theater performance are beautifully intercut with rare footage (like the interview in which a young Mick Jagger predicts to continue with rock and roll for “at least another year”). The combination of archive footage and live shots, such as Jagger’s feverish movements and Richards’ nonchalant disposal of a guitar pick, paints a unique portrait of the charisma and public persona of the Rolling Stones that is sure to interest even the most knowledgeable Stones fan.
After a dramatic final shot that puts us in the perspective of the rock stars emerging to flashbulbs and screaming fans, it is impossible not to walk away from Shine A Light smiling. Who knows, you might even feel the sudden urge to stick your tongue out like the Stones’ trademark logo. For a great flick that’s overflowing with energy, choose Shine A Light — I guarantee you can get plenty of satisfaction.