A rudi­men­tary rock­u­men­tary

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

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

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