Shine a Light
Shine a Light
PG-13 | 04 April 2008 (USA)
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Martin Scorsese and the Rolling Stones unite in "Shine A Light," a look at The Rolling Stones." Scorsese filmed the Stones over a two-day period at the intimate Beacon Theater in New York City in fall 2006. Cinematographers capture the raw energy of the legendary band.


Such a frustrating disappointment

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Better Late Then Never

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If the ambition is to provide two hours of instantly forgettable, popcorn-munching escapism, it succeeds.

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The story, direction, characters, and writing/dialogue is akin to taking a tranquilizer shot to the neck, but everything else was so well done.

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The Rolling Stones, filmed by Martin Scorsese is a great idea; it's just a pity that it had to happen a good thirty years too late. Contrasted with the punk-inspired, on-form Stones caught on their 'Some Girls' 1978 tour, this DVD just looks a little sad. Respect is due to Mick Jagger, who is still a compelling frontman, A-class guitarist Ronnie Wood and the ultimate garage-band drummer that is Charlie Watts, but Keith... Keith Richards gets a lot further these days on his personality than his guitar playing, which has steadily ossified and actually decreased in abundance over the decades. Since the blazing lead-rhythm 'Chuck Berry meets the Blues giants at a garage-punk gig' style seen so delightfully extensively during the 'Some Girls: Live in Texas '78' DVD, Keith has devolved into someone who plays less and less and poses more and more. Here he seems to play around a quarter (if that) of what he used to play, leaving Ronnie and Mick to take up the slack, which in all fairness, they do admirably. In fact, one is tempted to say that Jagger is now a better (and certainly more prolific) guitarist than Keith, who seems content to noodle about with the odd occasional lick rather than the full-blooded rhythm-chording he used to do. It has been said that he hasn't been the same since he fell out of that tree a few years ago and given this evidence it is difficult to disagree . Elsewhere, in contrast with the stripped-down 1978 tour, there are more people on stage who aren't the Rolling Stones than who are, leaving the actual band-members almost as guest stars at their own concert. The less said about actual guests Christina Aguilera and the execrable performance by Jack White the better (Buddy Guy fits in well though), and despite Scorsese's attempts to create a sense of excitement with his myriad of camera- shots, this gig is a damp squib. On viewing 'Shine a Light', one unhesitatingly salutes the efforts of the increasingly musicianly Jagger (although one strongly suspects that this is a measure adopted perforce to cover Keith's disturbing infirmity), and concedes to Ronnie Wood's stalwart guitar show-carrying brilliance, but it is not enough to save the experience from the near-heartbreaking conclusion that the ageing 'band', with its supporting superstructure of extra musicians, really is milking the last dregs of a career which should have been ended a long time ago.

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It's just plain dumb to take the sound from the PA. The sound from the PA is optimized for the theater during the show, not for the footage from the show. This results in very loud guitars, some vocals and barely anything else (no audience sounds either, until the end of the song - very artificial). All this, unfortunately, results in the impression that the Stones sound terrible. Which is not true and a shame. I can't believe they let this film go out the way it is.I did see the film on the DVD, not in the theater. I don't know if this would make any difference, but I really don't thinks so.As for the "plot" and the remarks about the commerciality of the film - I expected this, seeing the trailers, so no nasty surprises there.

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During passing black-and-white footage beginning the film, we see Scorsese as he sketches out shot charts to map out the sequence of the songs, right down to the solos, and who would be where on the stage. His hopeful intention is to be able to direct his cameramen through earpieces. However, Mick Jagger fiddles with the list in continuous wavering. We observe over his shoulder at songs scratched out and written back in, as he brings up nonchalantly that naturally the whole set might be altered on the spot. It sounds as if after playing together for half a century, the Stones agree on their song order through mind- reading.What I love about this opening is that it speaks volumes about the role of a film director. Scorsese has been working as a director for over 30 years now, and he has for almost as long been one of the most beloved and respected filmmakers at least in this hemisphere. However, no matter how many A-list stars he has directed, no matter how many millions of dollars have gone into his projects, and no matter how long he struggled with depression and anger and anxiety during the 1980s trying to make The Last Temptation of Christ, he just cannot seem to wrangle the Rolling Stones! When one deems someone fit to be a director, or anyone in a position of charge for that matter, one primarily discerns based on how they perceive that person's ability to control a hundred or so people. This criteria is not so skewed, as many of these large masses of people to wrangle towards your concrete vision of the end result are big celebrities, superstars, megastars, who are so spoiled and pampered by their status that they work noncondusively, treat the director and others with utter contempt, cause selfish problems, and other such things. However, there is the argument that if one is willing to do absolutely anything to tell a story, to make a statement, to realize their vision, they will put up with as much as they have to in order to do so. (Really, the argument can be made that one could never truly know if they could handle a director's job till they actually do it.) Scorsese proves in these first ten minutes or so that no matter who you are, there are simply some people who are not compatible with you in hands-on creative situations. He also proves that in spit of this, a project can still come to seamless fruition.The problem is that Shine a Light is not a story, not a statement, and really nobody's vision. Actually, it disregards cinema. It is a filmed concert. At a concert, the audience enjoys a succession of performances. When an audience sees a movie, they enjoy a progression of events. That includes documentaries. Not every documentary has a narrative structure, but every sequence changes something. A documentary could be a story told in reality, or it could be an argument formed from bullet point to bullet point. Simply filming a concert gives the audience none of that. The audience languishes through impressive coverage of a rock concert.Take it from a fan of the Rolling Stones! Gimme Shelter, Street Fightin' Man, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Sympathy For the Devil, Monkey Man, Let It Loose, You Can't Always Get What You Want, so many quintessential rock songs. Mick Jagger's lazy, drawling vocal style is timeless. I even like to sing like that when I'm in my car, whether Let it Loose ("Leddeh Looh!") has been stuck in my head or if I'm belting Fly Me To the Moon ("Flah Me Tooh d'Mooh"). I enjoy the performances of Champagne & Reefer with Buddy Guy, and their beautiful rendition of As Tears Go By.Jagger is a dancer and a confidently sloppy one, too, and if I were at that concert, I would enjoy that. He employs his wiry body to command the attention of the audience. Keith Richards and Ron Wood are lazily lithe, Richards especially looking as if to disregard physics as his body leans at impossibly obtuse angles. Surely it has the most excellent coverage of the onstage performance. Directing cinematographer Robert Richardson, Scorsese set up a group of nine cinematographers, all either Oscar winners or nominees, to cover a concert, when if it was possible to round up such a dream team he could have made the most incredible movie imaginable.

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Early in the picture, there's the greatest exchange between director Martin Scorsese and one of his engineers. Talking about the precautions needed with the stage lighting and how hot it might get:Scorsese - "You mean like flames?" Engineer - "He (referring to Mick Jagger) might catch on fire". Scorsese - "We can't do that". I don't know what I got a bigger kick out of, that conversation, or the sight of Bill Clinton getting a hug from Keith Richards. You have to admit, that was pretty bizarre. Now don't take this the wrong way, I've been a Rolling Stones fan right from the get go, but seeing them up close and personal the way they appeared in this concert film, is about the closest you'll ever get to seeing a band of corpses performing live. Sort of on the order of the Crypt Keeper in 'Tales From The Crypt'. Except for Charlie Watts maybe, he looks pretty much like a regular old man. And again, I'm not making fun, just taking liberty considering the fact that I'm not much younger than any of the Stones.But man, that Jagger has energy to spare, and he can pound it out with the best of them. Kind of makes you want to get up out of a comfortable sofa and kick out the jams along with the boys. Every rock number that Mick belts out is raw energy, and when you figure that in forty plus years of performing they must have played "Satisfaction" a few thousand times, it's a blast to hear it like it was fresh and new. I particularly liked the way they mixed their set with a take on a Motown favorite, "Just My Imagination", along with a great bluesy presentation of "Champagne and Reefer" accompanied by the legendary Buddy Guy. It was also cool to hear Jagger reach way back to the early days for a stab at an acoustic version of "As Tears Go By".I was taken aback somewhat the first time an interview clip from the Sixties popped into the picture; hard to imagine that the Stones were ever that impossibly young. Responding to a question about the band's prospects after their first two years of touring, I think you'd have to score Mick's answer as the understatement of the rock era - "I think we're pretty well set up for at least another year". And what keeps Keith Richards going? - "My luck hasn't run out yet". I've never seen The Stones live in concert, but "Shine A Light" is a pretty reasonable substitute. There's no shortage of old favorites and long time fans will know and appreciate every tune. Kind of makes you wish that each performance will set them up for at least another year.

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