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Shine a Light
I’ve always been interested by Martin Scorsese‘s enduring love of the Rolling Stones. Whether it’s a loud “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” introducing Robert De Niro‘s character in Mean Streets or “Gimme Shelter” setting the tone for the Boston crime world in The Departed, the music has contributed an incalculable amount to our sense of immersion in Scorsese’s worlds.
It was perhaps only a matter of time before Scorsese took on the Stones head on. Shine a Light, his new film, is at once an ode to the director’s longtime muses, a look at the arc of their career, and a rollicking concert film.
The film begins with a ten-minute documentary-style prologue of Scorsese and the Stones ironing out the details of the concert, which took place in the relatively tiny Beacon Theater in New York City during the band’s 2006 “Bigger Bang” tour. It’s supposed to give us a sense of all the backstage drama: Mick Jagger doesn’t want Scorsese to use moving cameras! No one can find out set list! It feels a bit staged, but it’s played for laughs, and builds up the anticipation for when the stage goes black and we finally here that opening guitar riff.
When we do, it’s as fun and refreshing as jumping into a pool on a hot summer day. I saw this in Imax, and if you have the opportunity to do the same in your area, I fully recommend it; the sound and video are so good it’s insane. Of course, technology aside, Scorsese put together a crack team making sure this thing looked as good as possible: he rounded up a whopping ten Oscar-nominated cinematographers, led by Scorsese regular Robert Richardson.
The set list isn’t necessarily what you’d expect; I have an unfortunate tendency to only ever listen to Greatest Hits albums, so it was nice hearing plenty of songs that aren’t on their Forty Licks set. Spicing things up periodically are three special guests: Jack White (of the White Stripes and the Raconteurs), Christina Aguilera, and finally blues legend Buddy Guy. As a big fan of both the Stones and the White Stripes, hearing White and Jagger’s duet together was a big highlight.
What’s fascinating about the Rolling Stones is that for all the talk about them still being on tour when they’re all over 60, they still somehow look youthful. Okay, nobody can say that Keith Richards "” who sings “You Got the Silver” here – looks young, but Jagger and guitarist Ronnie Wood manage to have bodies that still look and move like teenagers’. Drummer Charlie Watts is the only member who actually has white hair. (Or rather, the only member who doesn’t dye,
but hey.) The film periodically interrupts the concert with some priceless archival footage of old interviews, which only enhance your suspicions that (A) the Rolling Stones are timeless, and (B) they’re all having a great time.
Of course, if you don’t know the Rolling Stones well, chances are your enjoyment of the film will be severely limited. This may sound strange to some, but I personally don’t even like concerts that much "” give me a story to invest in any day "” which is why I’ve been ambivalent about concert films like U2 3D before. But as a huge fan of the Rolling Stones (and Scorsese for that matter), Shine a Light is one big happy exception.
Movie Grade: B+
A Rolling Stones documentary that focuses on the two concerts from the group’s current “A Bigger Bang” tour as well as historical and contemporary behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. A recent concert in Austin, Texas, was also filmed.