Scorsese's Stones movie short on satisfaction

Fri Feb 8, 2008 9:26am EST
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By Kirk Honeycutt

BERLIN (Hollywood Reporter) - Martin Scorsese has made his share of superb musical documentaries, but filmgoers may find they can't always get what they want from "Shine a Light," his new movie about the Rolling Stones.

Shooting for two nights at concerts in New York's Beacon Theatre, Scorsese and an all-star cinematography crew capture the very essence of the Stones in performance -- the raw energy, slick musicianship, easy rapport with audiences and the way their individual personas have grown into appealing caricatures of their former bad-boy selves.

But at the end of a very long night, "Shine a Light," screening here out of competition, is simply another in a long line of concert films about the "so-called greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world." Scorsese, who painted a portrait of an era and its musicians in his great concert film "The Last Waltz" (1978) and explored the blues so movingly in his television series "The Blues" (2003), is content here to sit back and watch. Hard to blame him -- after all, it is the Stones -- but you do expect more from Scorsese. No one, except perhaps Clint Eastwood, knows music and movies better, so you want him to take a deep, long and, OK, celebratory look at the iconic rock band.

No dice. You've got a ticket to watch the Stones in concert so enjoy.

The film does not stand up to the current crop of music/concert films like "U2 3D," which brilliantly uses 3-D to show the Irish band in concert so as to encapsulate its relationship to its fans, each other and their own music, and "CSNY: Deja Vu," which hones in on the political connection Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have to their music.

Scorsese makes peripheral and sporadic attempts to introduce a documentary flavor to the filmed concert. The movie opens with color and black-and-white footage of the preparation to shoot the concerts in autumn 2006 during the band's "A Bigger Bang" tour. The curious emphasis here seems to be on the missteps, frustrations and lack of communication as the film and rock cultures meet.

At one point, Scorsese is told about a potential fire danger of an effect involving Stones lead singer Mick Jagger. Scorsese actually says with a straight face, "We cannot burn Mick Jagger." No, you can't.

Then, pre-concert one night, the Clintons descend on to the stage -- Hillary, Bill, family and guests. For jet-lagging Americans at the Berlinale, where the film opened the festival Thursday night, this is an almost surreal moment, as if post-Super Tuesday, the Clintons have somehow arrived cinematically in Berlin to scrounge up absentee ballots from local expats.   Continued...