Shine A Light
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring the Rolling Stones


Shine A Light

How do you review a Rolling Stones concert film, directed by no less a personage than Martin Scorsese? Loved them, hated him? Loved them, was ambivalent about him? Loved them, thought he overdirected the film? Well, yes, he did, and it drove me crazy. Scorsese used eighteen cameras to photograph a two-night stand at the Beacon theatre, and the day you use eighteen cameras to photograph ANYTHING other than the Olympics, particularly something confined to a mid-sized theatre, is the day you need to rethink your career.

Eighteen cameras (some of them operated by Academy-Award-winning cinematographers), on cranes, on dollies, in the wings, upstairs, downstairs, in the audience, all synchronized so that they'd match the sound of the band, all swooping around to follow Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, is about ten cameras too many. They spent most of the time just trying to get out of each others' way, and it became a game for me to see how many I could spot in any one of the shots of the concert. So instead of just relating to the Stones I was distracted by the fact that no shot was ever held more than ten seconds, because it would have ended up looking at the ass end of someone else's camera.

Okay. Having gotten that off my chest, the fact is that it was a great concert. Here are the Stones, the world's oldest rock & roll band as well as the greatest, and they gave a great concert. Is that too many greats? I don't care. The drive is still there, the absolutely tight control hasn't gotten sloppy, and Mick hasn't lost a step or that raucous, sexy quality of his voice. I cannot imagine how anyone in his sixties still has that drive and sex appeal. Yes, Keith looks like - well, let's just say he hasn't aged very well and let it go at that. On the other hand, Mick looks fantastic; about half-way through I turned to my wife and said, "Oh. I just realized that Mick dyes his hair." "Duh," she said. Ron Woods and Charlie Watts (who doesn't) also look just fine.

And the songs, most of them from my youth, are as gorgeous and sexy as ever, and of course that's why we go, to recapture those moments that aren't ever going to come again, and what could be a better reason?

The film opens with some footage of Scorsese trying to find out what the song list is going to be, then winging it with his cameras and lighting people, and interspersed with the concert are excerpts of interviews with the Stones from the 1960s and 70s, most of which are there for our amusement. Dick Cavett asks Mick if he can consider doing his thing at the age of sixty. "Of course," he says. And here they are, still great. What could be better?