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Shine a Light
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by Jason Whyte

"Still Getting Their Ya Ya's Out!"
5 stars

As far back as I can remember, The Rolling Stones were a staple of my music existence. I seem to recall it all began with a cassette tape of “Steels Wheels” given to me by my cousin when I was nine years old. I then heard “Paint it Black” soon after and was immediately transfixed. I still own most of their CD’s (with the major exception of their abundant “Greatest Hits” collections…what a sham!) Over the years, my interest has waned slightly. I’m not as in love with their current music as some others are, and I’ve moved onto newer, indie artists that are changing the world one song at a time.

Film-wise, the Stones have been represented in many films, among them the classic “Gimme Shelter”, the awesome “Sympathy for the Devil” and the IMAX concert of their Steel Wheels tour. Today, the Stones are older, much the wiser and they still keep cranking out tours. It does pay a pretty penny, however as evidenced by the performances in “Shine a Light”, they still love what they do.

“Shine a Light” is the ultimate trip for the concert film geek. We have one of the best directors in the industry working with one of the most famous bands in the world. Martin Scorsese has teamed up with an army of top cinematographers (among them, Robert Richardson, Robert Elswit, Ellen Kuras and John Toll), along with several 35mm and High-Def cameras to film the Stones on their “A Bigger Bang” tour. While you may immediately think you will be treated to a major stadium show like the IMAX doc, instead the concert is performed at the famous Beacon Theatre in New York with former president Bill Clinton in attendance.

In the opening moments, we are given a brief glimpse of Marty setting up the production (this is where the HD comes in; the concert is 35mm only). He wants his 35mm cameras to swoop all over the room even if it means disrupting the audience and the stage. Even legenardy lead singer Mick Jagger thinks the cameras should be tucked away. “It would be good to have a moving camera,” deadpans Scorsese, as he knows that in the end, he’ll make the film he wants.

Scorsese is not given the set list until mere moments before the Stones take stage, a wise decision as it allows the camerawork to be a bit more creative, more loosely than a planned concert film would. Scorsese did not have the option of shooting over multiple nights of the concert (something Jonathan Demme has done in “Stop Making Sense” and “Neil Young: Heart of Gold”), so he had to make due with the spontaneous coverage of the event, along with the cameras popping up in nearly every shot.

Once the music blasts across the sound system – we are visually assisted by way of a visual effects shot of a camera dropping hundreds of feet to the theatre marquee -- we are immediately deposited into the best seat in the house. The Stones take stage and literally blast their way through tune after tune, including old favorites, a few new tracks and performances by special guests. While there’s Jack White and Christina Aguilera, my favorite appearance was Buddy Guy, who knows just how to smile and beam on stage that warms your heart. (Yes, I’m a softie.)

Scorsese does a great job with his coverage. Mick Jagger dances wildly (it is joked in the vintage interview footage that he loses ten pounds a show), Keith Richard’s famous smoking and the beautiful stillness of Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts (when Watts says hello on the usual roll call, Jagger jokes “He speaks!”) along with all of the guests in attendance. It also helps that the film’s editor is David Tedeschi, who was also present for Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz” (a movie that had much more planning than this particular concert).

One thing Scorsese does show during the concert is the audience, something that usually bothers me as I tire of watching the audience watching the show (and even more so, the dredded fan interviews before a concert begins). This was done in the 1991 IMAX doc, where I grew a bit restless looking at the crowd while the music raged on. Here, Scorsese never lingers on a particular member of the audience, instead showing wide shots of the audience in the moment with the music.

As well, the fantastic use of sound design places the power of the stage at the front and the crowds in the surround channels, something that gives you a cool effect when the music ends and you’re surrounded by cheering. If seen theatrically, ensure you are either seeing the blown-up IMAX version, or in a traditional 35mm cinema with top notch film and sound capabilities for the best experience.

Will the film work for a non-Stones fan? Perhaps not, as many close friends to me have turned up their noses at the idea of The Rolling Stones; either not liking their music or not liking them at this point in their careers. Fair enough, I suppose, yet if you like or even love the Stones, Scorsese or any kind of concert film, “Shine a Light” is an absolute gift, a joyous experience that brings you right up close to what makes the live performance of the Stones so amazing.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17043&reviewer=350
originally posted: 04/07/08 03:03:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/05/15 thomas hate this movie 1 stars
4/13/08 Stephen Simmons Outstanding, I was there! onstage, backstage, up close, VERY CLOSE, what a blast! 5 stars
4/08/08 dien2meetu WE LOVE THE ROLLING STONEs !!! 5 stars
4/08/08 shaw my dad loves it! 4 stars
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  04-Apr-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Jul-2008



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