SHINE A LIGHT (Martin Scorsese). 122 minutes. Opens Friday (April 4). Rating: NNNNN
Shine A Light is Martin Scorsese's love letter to the Rolling Stones, a beatifully staged and shot concert movie that bops to the beat with every frame and pumps out Jagger's voice and Richards's and Wood's trademark riffage loud and IMAX-clear.
The Stones grind out the hits (Jumpin' Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Sympathy For The Devil) and the lesser-played gems (You Got The Silver, Live With Me) and pump out the energy. Scorsese translates the show into pure cinema, a long run of spectacular shots, some of them lasting precisely one single beat and all of them colour-corrected to bathe the eye in warm reds, golds and blues.
It's also Scorsese's love letter to Mick Jagger, who gets the vast majority of the screen time, much of it in close-up. He's got the best shot in the movie: a fire-drenched entrance for Sympathy For The Devil. He's also got the most ridiculous: a low-angle backlit shot that makes him look noble and tragic; not concepts that really work, given Jagger's life and livelihood.
Scorsese's approach takes us close enough to see how the Stones function on stage. We watch Jagger borrowing energy from back-up singer Lisa Fischer couldn't check this name cuing the band, then racing over to head off Richards who's screwing up Far Away Eyes. Richards doesn't care. He expects to make mistakes, but Jagger's a worrier and never more so than when blues legend Buddy Guy steals the show with a couple of hot licks. Jagger, Richards and Wood scramble to keep up. They're not in his league and they know it.
By the end of the show, it's apparent that Jagger and Richards are getting too old for this. Jagger is glassy-eyed and tottering. Richards is reduced to throwing in the occasional simple lick. It becomes evident that Wood and the back-up players carry the music. At the same time, Scorsese's camerawork, so elegant at the start of the show, gets sloppy. Composition and focus are both off, as though the camera people are wearing out along with the Glimmer Twins.
Scorsese could have covered both the players' and the shooters' flaws. That he chose not to says a lot about the nature of his love for the Stones and his own honest approach to cinema.