The new Scorsese/Stones IMAX picture screened for critics last night, providing a definitive answer to the question of whether we will still need and feed Mick Jagger when he's 64:
Shine a Light
Martin Scorsese's Shine a Light
opens with a fairly dispiriting montage of the director begging the Rolling Stones to give him their set list and allow him to place more cameras on their stage. It's an immediate reminder of everything that's wrong with this concert film. Scorsese and the Stones could have been a perfect match—in, say, 1977. That was a year when the band was still anarchic, and the auteur hadn't become such a monomaniacal orchestrator. But a Rolling Stones show filmed in 2006 by an Oscar honoree for IMAX feels like a manufactured event, drained of all spontaneity. “It would help if we could just know the first two songs,” Scorsese wheedles. Actually, no, it wouldn't.
But I suppose you can't allow the Hell's Angels to terrorize your crowd when that audience includes a former U. S. President (Bill Clinton, of course, looking about ready to start working a cocktail-lounge circuit), and once the disappointment that Shine a Light
isn't Gimme Shelter
wears off, watching a contemporary Stones performance at New York City's Beacon Theater isn't an objectionable experience. For one thing, the songs are so spectacularly good: It can't hurt to hear "Shattered," "Faraway Eyes" or "Tumbling Dice" dusted off one more time, can it? And while it's true that the quartet looks like the reptilian geezers you might run into at the corner pub, Mick Jagger is more limber and energetic at 64 as I will be at any age. (Also, Keith Richards is still standing up, which is probably just as remarkable a feat.) Scorsese's meticulously placed cameras are fairly lively, too, and they even capture some intimate throwaway moments—like Richards spitting a cigarette into the footlights.
An aging rock band is a ridiculous sight, and an aging rock band on IMAX doubly so. Yet it's hard not to have some sympathy for the old devils, perhaps because they at least partially recognize the absurdity of their own longevity. Between the songs, Scorsese interjects archival footage from decades of Stones interviews, and these clips add a touch of self-deprecating humor as Mick and Keith continue to answer questions about when, exactly, they plan to hang it up. They move from suggesting they see a limit to their staying power—Jagger actually wonders aloud if the band will be finished after its first three years
—to expressing mild surprise at not being dead. “It's good to see you,” Richards tells the Beacon crowd. “It's good to see anybody.” The chief expression the Rolling Stones have on their faces in Shine a Light
is a grin—they're just so damn happy to still be playing. That's curious finish for a group whose claim over the Beatles was always its capacity for anger and sadness, but it feels ungenerous to begrudge them their satisfaction.
Shine a Light is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 & IMAX.