Shine a Light
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Concert Promotions International
Considering its subject is the legendary Rolling Stones and it is directed by the critically acclaimed Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, The Departed), Shine a Light is a surprisingly boring and pointless film. On the bright side, at least only $15 was wasted on the IMAX ticket when it could have cost $400 to see the same thing live.
Scorsese’s film Shine a Light documents the Rolling Stones’ performances at New York City’s Beacon Theater on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, 2006. These two performances were added onto their tour specifically for filming and featured a set list atypical from their other shows, with notable star guests like former President Bill Clinton, The White Stripes’ Jack White, Christina Aguilera and blues legend Buddy Guy. Mostly filming the two concerts, Shine a Light is also sprinkled with various interview clips with the band from the mid-’60s and is preceded by a semi-fictionalized introduction with Scorsese and the staff on show preparation.
Having consistently used the Stones’ music in his films through the years, Shine a Light is the ultimate love letter to the band from long-time fan Scorsese. As a documentary itself, the film is a more than perfect presentation of experiencing a live concert with the Rolling Stones. Every frame is perfectly shot, every chord is pristinely heard and every wrinkle is distinctly visible. What’s more, due to careful filming from attentive cameramen, we also get glimpses of various band member interactions that may have been missed from the pit.
However, from the point of view of an indifferent listener of the Rolling Stones, the film is highly repetitive and lackluster. The entirety of the first hour or so makes use of the 18 cameras employed for the film, chaotically switching shots from Mick Jagger’s face to his midriff. That paired with blindingly glaring lights and constant 63-year-old hip gyration, in IMAX – the effect is overwhelming.
Don’t expect explanations or a purpose in this movie. The clips of the band in their younger years are very interesting but sparse; they don’t provide much insight into the recent concert and seem to work more as breathers between sets of songs rather than as vehicles of information.
It’s a self-indulgent film that mirrors the Rolling Stones’ general attitude toward why they still tour at the age of 60 and beyond – they do it just because they can. So therein lies the real question: Scorsese can make a film about the Stones, but should he? The Stones have already had so much coverage throughout their long career, and as expected, Shine a Light adds little to the record.
The best part of the concert is when guest performer Buddy Guy all too briefly appears on stage. His mature, cool ease and powerful performance transcends the film, and for a few minutes, you forget you’re not there with him in the Beacon Theater.
Shine a Light feels more like a long and loud inside joke than it does a film that independently stands on two feet. Obviously, this movie will appeal to you if you’re a Rolling Stones fan (and I’m sure you’ve already seen it twice), but if you’re not, don’t expect this film to change your mind.