As much as I love film, I'm also known to be a bit of a music fan. Anyone who has taken a cursory glance at the jukebox on my profile can tell you that. I pride myself on my knowledge and experience with music and even once upon a time, long long ago, was a music critic. The problem is that I'm entirely too fickle. My tastes change and evolve constantly. I get bored with stuff that others find to be eternal and have a hard time even getting any appreciation out of them anymore. This brings me neatly to the Rolling Stones and "Shine a Light."
I would have been first in line to see these guys thirty years ago but now, it's like watching Eddie Murphy in films...a sad, aged reminder of what once was, now merely an animated corpse. At least I think so. Even with my love for music and film, I've never been a fan of the 'concert movie.' Precisely why I passed this one on to my faithful League partner Jason...
Cyrus, well aware of my penchant for horror movies, both good and bad, hooked me up with what looked to be a classic. It's called 'Shine A Light' and it was directed by . . . Martin Scorsese?!? How did this slip by my radar? Even the cover looked creepy, an orgy of capering corpses. A mummy movie! This one was going to be good. Maybe there would be some Scorsese-style crime elements. A gangland mummy movie with . . . guitars? Confused, but curious, I popped the disk into the tray...and it started off with 'Jumpin' Jack Flash'.
No, it's not really a mummy movie, damn it. It's a Rolling Stones concert film. I'm a fan of the Stones and while I'm not totally in love with them and can't tell you every song from 'Exile On Main Street', their early work, in my opinion, rivals the Beatles.
The film starts out as more of a behind the scenes documentary, with Martin Scorsese, the god of gangland, pulling his hair out in an effort to try to place the cameras for this show. The Stones are capricious and uncooperative, of course, and wacky conflicts ensue. It was odd to have the documentarian have such a prominent presence in the film, but about 12 minutes in, the real show begins. It's a super-polished trip through the Stones repertoire. In fact, this polish is the main fault of the film. Unlike the raw, in-the-moment power of the Beastie Boys' 'Awsome: I Fuckin' Shot That', Scorsese opts to put you right in the middle of the Stones set. You're next to Mick Jagger as he swaggers and you get close-ups of the relief map that is Keith Richards' face (imagine seeing this in it's initial Imax release. The horror!) It's an interesting perspective, but again, I think you lose a lot of the frenetic energy that no doubt surges through the crowd at one of these shows.
In between many of the songs, there are little vignettes culled from the last 40 years of the Stones' history. The shorts are mostly interviews that show them at different stages of their careers. These are well timed, interesting, but ultimately thankfully brief. At it's heart, this is still a concert film with only the trimmings of a documentary. There's not much you can do with the art form without straying from the formula, but I was hoping for a little bit more insight or drama, I guess.
The extras on the disk are unsurprisingly thin, really. The supplemental featurette is more 'between the songs' material. It's a curiosity, but not terribly compelling, melding snippets of history with bits of candid conversations and rehearsals; a montage you likely won't watch more than once. If you didn't get enough of the show itself, there are a handful of songs here that were inexplicably omitted from the feature proper. Other than that, it's just a skeleton of a dvd.
If you're a big Stones fan, this is likely a must have. The sound is flawless and the precision is uncanny, but you lose much of the spontaneity that one would expect from such an endeavor. The show never stops, but neither do you quite get to see behind the curtain. I suppose there are plenty of other sources to see an autopsy of the jumping corpse of the band, but this serves as a nice piece of fluff for Rolling Stones completists. On the other hand, I really wish it had been an undead gangland musical.