AS YEARS GO ROLLING BY
published April 4, 2008
now playing at select theaters
What other director than Martin Scorsese could have convinced The Rolling Stones to want to be filmed by nineteen cameras over two
nights in a venue (NYC’s Beacon Theatre), a fraction of the size they are normally accustomed to? It seems every auteur from Jean-Luc
Godard to Robert Frank has attempted a documentary on The Rolling Stones. When an outside force enters The Stones’ orbit, powerful things
happen. When legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz was sent to document them, she acquired a drug habit as a tour memento. These days,
though, the Stones are more focused on venturing with producers that can promote them to Mars and back again. In fact Rolling Stones Four Flicks is the world’s highest-selling music DVD in history.
Scorsese was easily the most qualified candidate, with director and/or editor credits on Woodstock, The Last Waltz, No Direction Home, and the PBS seven-part documentary series Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues. A lifelong fan, “Sympathy for the Devil” can be heard in no less
than three Scorsese films. This time around there is archival footage woven into the film’s fabric. Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert
Richardson supervises a camera team of acclaimed directors of photography. The Stones themselves are the executive producers.
The tension and humor in Shine A Light peaks in its opening moments when, in vain,
Scorsese makes several patient requests to get a hold of a set list so that the nineteen camera persons don’t miss any crucial moments.
Whether it’s a matter of secrecy or mere indecision, an hour before they are set to perform Mick has yet to come up with a final list of
songs. Sonically they have the elements of the world’s biggest blues bar band. Their duets with Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy and Jack
White are welcomed distractions. There is a ramshackle vibe to their repertoire, and Keith Richards, looking like a pirate, appears to be
having the time of his life. With multiple guitars and vocals there is an element of leisure, in that no one band member has to carry the
entire load. That is, except for Mick Jagger, who is so hell bent on jumping and preening that he resembles more closely a frazzled peacock
than an icon rocking out. Incessantly, he flings his arms towards the rafters in that dual finger wag. And, not unlike Elton John, Mick
Jagger gets more southern-sounding with age. The songs he chooses are, by no stretch of the imagination, their strongest.
And then, as though in slow motion, there is a moment when Mick stops
dancing for a split second, long enough to pose for a camera phone front and center, that really took me out of the moment. From that point on
Mick went from icon to mannequin. It was then that I came up with anagrams for the band (the letters of a word rearranged: Mick (I did use
Michael P. Jagger, his given name), became “Alpha Crime Jiggle Hip.” Stalwart drummer Charlie Watts
at the rear of the stage became “Tails Watcher.” Keith Richards became “Ditch Shirker” and the nimble Ronnie Wood became “Do We Iron, No.” So
as not to be left out, Martin Scorsese became “increases storm.”
During “Champagne and
Reefer” I wished one of the nineteen cameras (not to mention camera phones) had captured the expression on audience member Bill Clinton’s
face. Oh well. In “Some Girls” they sing, “Gimme all your money.” After rocking on for forty-five years, no one can deny, they really have
chadmenville @ stageandcinema.com