Shine A Light
- Release Date:November 05, 2008
- Distributor:20th Century Fox
- The Film:5.0
- The Disc:3.5
Despite having all the right elements - the world's best rock band in The Rolling...
Despite having all the right elements - the world's best rock band in The Rolling Stones; one of America's greatest living directors in Martin Scorsese; a selection of popular guest performers; a cameo from Bill Clinton - Shine A Light failed to set the box office on fire, perhaps proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that concert movies just don't draw in crowds in the same way that actual concerts do. This beautifully crafted film, however, is sure to have a long and illustrious life on DVD and Blu-ray, joining a shelf-full of other fine Rolling Stones titles, and equaling most of them in terms of sound, vision and intent. This is a concert film made by a real filmmaker, not just a music video hack, and it shows in every single gorgeous, glistening frame.
The film begins with a hyperactive Martin Scorsese (a longtime Stones fan, and a major music enthusiast in general) trying to corner frontman Mick Jagger to nut out the details of the shoot at New York's Beacon Theatre over two nights on the group's mammoth Bigger Bang tour. Jagger, however, won't be drawn, proving that the big, rumbling beast that is The Rolling Stones doesn't bend for anyone, not even a legendary Hollywood director attempting to make a film about them. With this brief and very entertaining intro (which also includes an appearance from Bill Clinton and his missus Hilary, who come along to introduce the show) done with, Shine A Light gets down to business. This is a concert film, pure and simple. The interview and archival footage is at an absolute minimum; Shine A Light is not about The Stones' compellingly sordid past - it's about their surprisingly vivid and ever resilient present. The film brilliantly captures their on-stage camaraderie and bravura, which has been minted to perfection over a forty-plus-year career.
Captured by a crack team of cinematographers working as camera operators (only Scorsese could corral such impressive DOPs as Robert Richardson, Robert Elswit, Andrew Lesnie, Stuart Dryburgh, Ellen Kuras, John Toll, Declan Quinn and more), the mellow, low key backdrop of The Beacon Theatre is the perfect setting for The Rolling Stones, who crunch and crank like a well oiled but slightly ramshackle machine. Mick Jagger prances and preens up front, while the less glittery Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts (along with a heady contingent of back up singers, horn players, keyboardists and the like) grind away effectively in the engine room, delivering big, sweeping versions of classics like "Start Me Up", "Brown Sugar", "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Sympathy For The Devil", and kindly throwing in lesser known jewels like "Shattered" and "All Down The Line".
There are also three interestingly chosen guest stars. Jack White III (of The White Stripes) straps on an acoustic guitar and puts his blinding falsetto to good use on "Loving Cup". His contribution and roots musician cred also nicely links the classicism of The Stones to the present, though the less said about pop diva Christina Aguilera's duet with Jagger on "Live With Me", the better. It's not that it's actually bad, it's just that it's... Christina Aguilera. Far more appropriate and entertaining, however, is blistering blues maestro Buddy Guy, who teams with The Stones for an absolutely spellbinding version of "Champagne & Reefer", providing the film's no-arguments highlight.
Scorsese (who made one of the best music movies ever with The Last Waltz, featuring the final performance of The Band) is a master, and he captures The Stones in a whole new light, which is remarkable for a band with such a well documented career. Taking its place just below The Rolling Stones' 1970 masterpiece Gimme Shelter, Shine A Light stands mightily as one of the truly great concert films.
Sadly, the DVD isn't exactly packed with features, with a dreamed-for band and director audio commentary sadly absent. What is here, however, is rock solid. Along with a multi-angle version of "Jumping Jack Flash", there are four excellent bonus songs, including a hot, funky reading of "Undercover Of The Night"; a short and sharp "Paint It Black"; a bright and vibrant "I'm Free"; and the standout "Little T & A", with Keith Richards on spectacularly wheezy and heartfelt lead vocals. There's also a fifteen-minute "Supplemental Featurette", which is a nicely and creatively constructed collection of deleted footage filled with terrific little moments: Keith chatting to legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (who co-directed Gimme Shelter); Charlie Watts and Martin Scorsese talking about high-grade tailoring and the true beauty of a good suit; Mick Jagger listening to Scorsese on the phone and pulling pained faces as the director requests various camera and stage set-ups; and Buddy Guy delivering a great anecdote about his days recording at Chess Studios. Interweaved between all of this are vintage interview clips (watch Keith's reaction when he's told by a journo that he's on a list of celebrities most expected to die soon) and wonderfully candid footage of The Stones jamming on acoustic versions of "Wild Horses", "Factory Girl" and more. It's great stuff...if only there was more...lots, lots, lots more.