A rudimentary rockumentary
SHINE A LIGHT Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Jack White, Buddy Guy, Christina Aguilera 12A cert, lim release, 122 min
“WHAT a drag it is getting old,” was the opening line and the refrain of Mother’s Little Helper, the Rolling Stones song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and featured on the band’s 1966 album, Aftermath. Watching the band perform in Shine a Light, in concert 40 years later at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan, the most striking feature is just how old they look now, how lined and wrinkled their features are in close-up on the cinema screen.
Yet Jagger, who turns 65 in July, is as skinny, wiry and elastic-limbed as ever, pouting and preening as he struts and races across the stage with apparently boundless energy. And even though Richards, a miraculous survivor of decades of excess, now resembles an elderly drag queen, he throws himself into the show with palpable enthusiasm.
The refrain of Martin Scorsese’s film is to marvel at how the Stones continue to take their act on the road for tour after tour and, although the movie does not raise the subject, one lucrative payday after another. In a movie disappointingly thin on archival footage, what little there is mostly consists of short clips from decades ago in which the band are asked time and time how long they will carry on performing.
In one, from a 1972 US TV chat show, presenter Dick Cavett asks Jagger, “Can you picture yourself at the age of 60 doing what you do now?” Jagger replies, “Easily.”
Scorsese himself features briefly early on in Shine a Light, fretting repeatedly about not having the band’s music menu for the show. And Bill Clinton turns up to introduce the concert, accompanied by Hillary and her mother, who’s greeted by Richards (“Hi, Dorothy”) before he gives her a hug and a kiss.
Scorsese was one of the editors on the epic concert movie Woodstock (1970) before he directed his own features, and he’s effectively used Stones tracks in Mean Streets, GoodFellas, Casino and The Departed. His evident admiration for the band has not extended beyond crafting a straightforward recording of them in concert, albeit shot by some of the finest cinematographers in movies today. The Stones work through their back catalogue, from Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which opens the show, to Brown Sugar for the finale.
There isn’t a trace of the exhaustive research that made Scorsese’s Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home so consistently fascinating. Nor is there the range of guest performers that added such variety to The Last Waltz, Scorsese’s memorable 1978 movie of The Band’s final concert. The few guests in Shine a Light are Jack White, eagerly joining Jagger for an exuberant duet on Loving Cup; veteran bluesman Buddy Guy powering his way through Champagne and Reefer; and a quite dispensable appearance from Christina Aguilera for Live with Me.
Buddy Guy jams with Ronnie, Keith and Charlie