Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Movies: Shine a Light

I'm going to tell you this right up front: I don't even really like The Rolling Stones.

Don't get me wrong, I want to. I want to like them. I borrow people's Stones CDs all the time in hopes that I'll finally find the right album, and click in. I could listen to ten Bob Dylan CDs from the mid-80s and early-90s and think that he was rotten, if I never got my hands on Highway 61 Revisited or Time Out of Mind or The Freewheeling Bob Dylan. But one would imagine that a movie like this would be a great showcase for their talents, particularly in IMAX. The Rolling Stones. Larger than life itself.

Keith Richards and Ronnie Woods are more than competent guitarists. Charlie Watts is a more than competent drummer. Mick Jagger isn't really a competent singer, but he was really quite stunningly beautiful in his youth, and has somehow managed to drag that out until now. He demonstrates in the film, once again, that he's quite a competent coked-up dancing monkey. But their songs just aren't that good. The best two cuts in the movie are two that feature guest appearances (Buddy Guy, who demonstrates, just when you thought that at least the Stones could play the blues, that the Stones cannot play the blues at all, and Christina Aguilera, who, for all her attendant antics, has some fucking pipes, and knows how to growl). The handful of decent songs the Stones did record (Wild Horses, Beast of Burden, Gimme Shelter) are not performed. Anyway, at each of the Stones' most blues-drenched moments, you only end up wishing you were instead listening to Led Zeppelin play You Shook Me.

Moving on to Scorsese, who, unlike the Stones, deserves his laurels. He did a killer job (although I wonder whether it was he or the Stones who decided that everyone standing up in the front, against the stage, should be an under-30 female, preferably blonde. . . what do those girls know about the Stones anyway (speaking as an under-30 female, sometimes blonde, who, clearly, doesn't get the Stones at all)). To be honest, the opening "behind-the-scenes" sections, shot in mostly black and white, in which Scorsese tries (and generally fails) to communicate with Mick about what the set list is going to look like, the band hangs around hotels, rehearses, looks at sets, the crew fiddles with lights and tries to figure out how to manage all the cameras, are far superior to the actual concert footage. Why? Because Scorsese is more interesting than Jagger, and film-making is more interesting than aged rock stars who were never that good to begin with.

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