Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Shine a Light
SHINE A LIGHT (Martin Scorsese, 2008)
Martin Scorsese, one of the most important directors of his generation, and The Rolling Stones, one of its defining bands, combine talents for SHINE A LIGHT, a concert film documenting the group's performance at New York City's Beacon Theater in 2006. Special guests Buddy Guy and The White Stripes' Jack White appear, connecting the band with their roots in American blues and perhaps passing the torch to one of today's most notable practitioners of the tradition. Christina Aguilera also drops by for a duet with Mick Jagger, although how she fits into this is less clear.
As one of the editors on WOODSTOCK and director of films about The Band and Bob Dylan, Scorsese knows his way around a rock doc. Filmed by Jean-Luc Godard, the Maysles brothers, and Hal Ashby, the Stones have been no strangers to cinema during their storied career. SHINE A LIGHT doesn't break any new ground for Scorsese or the Stones, but it's an enjoyable showcase for the prodigious skills the director and band have.
Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson draft a camera-operating dream team consisting of many of the best lensers in the business, including Robert Elswit, Ellen Kuras, and John Toll. Whether fixed on flamboyant frontman Jagger or catching winded drummer Charlie Watts after tearing through EXILE ON MAIN ST.'S "All Down the Line", the cameras always appear to be in the perfect spots to capture the dynamics on stage and between the performers and crowd.
After decades of playing stadiums, the band is accustomed to performances writ large to reach the back rows. Although playing a comparatively small room in SHINE A LIGHT, the IMAX version of the film brings intimacy and enormity to the concert. The closeness of the cameras and enhanced image resolution catch details invisible even from the front row while the bigger frame makes Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Watts tower over the audience like the rock giants they are.
The Rolling Stones have been playing rock and roll since the early 1960s. Although not now as artistically or commercially relevant as in their heyday, they are still going strong more than forty years later. Probably for close to half that time the band has been asked how long they will stay at it.
The once smooth cheeks and rebellious swagger have given way to relief map-like faces and institutional approval--the concert was a benefit for the Clinton Foundation--but in crosscutting yesteryear's news clips questioning their staying power with a still energetic live show, SHINE A LIGHT celebrates the Stones' music and longevity with a mischievous wink of the eye. They've probably played "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" thousands of times, but the Stones attack it like a brand-new song. Time is on their side after all.