This film of two 2006 performances by the Rolling Stones at New York’s Beacon Theater does more than just demonstrate why the Stones are such a legendary band; it also, ahem, shines a light on the men in the band, giving us insights into why they’ve stuck together all these years.
Director Martin Scorsese is a huge Stones fan; he uses a song by the band in most every movie he makes. In fact, in recent interviews, Mick Jagger has joked that Shine a Light may be the only Scorsese film that does not include “Gimme Shelter” in its soundtrack.
Point is, this is a guy who knows his subject.
Shine a Light begins with a 10-minute black-and-white segment about how this master director intends to make his film. The band (specifically Jagger) is a bit hesitant about the cameras getting in the way and the fact that the moviemaking is coming before the musicplaying. For his part, Scorsese does some exaggerated fretting about a lack of set list, and demonstrates how he’s over-preparing for the shows.
Jagger had reason to be concerned — when the concert starts and the picture goes not just from black-and-white to color but from big to huge, the action is being captured by 16 or 17 cameras.
But Scorsese is just as much a pro as the Stones, and he’s hired a team of cinematographers that includes Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men), John Toll (Gone Baby Gone), and Albert Maysles, who directed the classic 1970 Stones documentary Gimme Shelter, to work those cameras. Let’s just say that although these guys have every possible inch of these shows covered, it doesn’t affect the Stones one bit. They’re as good as ever, and they appear to be having a great time making the film.
In between great songs like “She Was Hot,” “Just My Imagination,” and the Keith Richards solo “You Got the Silver,” Scorsese inserts vintage clips of interviews Jagger, Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts have given over the years, including one in which Jagger, after just two years of touring, says the band probably will only be around for another year. The show itself is enhanced by guest stars Jack White, Buddy Guy, and Christina Aguilera.
It all adds up to two hours of hard-rocking, exciting showmanship both behind and in front of the camera.
Shine a Light is playing on both IMAX and regular screens, but for the best experience, this film must be seen on an IMAX screen. If you’re a Stones fan, it’s essential viewing. If you’re not, this film will show you why some bands have long careers and others just fade away.
Simply, the Stones are pros; even when playing songs like “Start Me Up,” they give it their all. Scorsese has made a fantastic tribute to one of his favorite bands, and the affection he feels can’t help but transfer to the viewer.
I’m giving Shine a Light an A–.