Rolling Stones
Didn’t the Grateful Dead do a music video like this once?

Theatrical Release Date: 04/04/2008
Director: Martin Scorsese
Featuring: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, Buddy Guy, Jack White, Christina Aguilera, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton

For all of you necrophiliacs and Stones fans out there that have been waiting for an IMAX concert, your time has arrived with the Martin Scorsese directed, “Shine a Light”. One thing to note right off the bat is that this is NOT a documentary – it’s a concert film (which is why I didn’t designate it a documentary with a flash tag or if you tried to look it up via a category on the site).

The film starts out with Martin Scorsese playing phone tag with the Stones as they try to agree on what the stage will look like and what the set list will be. This takes up the opening credits and is followed by Bill and Hillary Clinton grabbing some photos with the band since they are performing that night as part of a benefit concert to the Clinton foundation. Once that’s over with, we get right to a couple of live performances at the venue. Cut to about 1 minute of an archival interview, then back to a few more live songs. Another minute of old footage, back to more live performances. Rinse and repeat.

I’d say that of the film’s 2 hour run-time, about an hour and forty minutes are live performances. That’s great if you’re a Stones fan. If you are like me, and was looking forward to a documentary about the Stones, you’ll be disappointed to learn absolutely nothing about the band. Heck, if it wasn’t for general cultural knowledge and their accents, you’d barely have found out they were from across the pond.

Really, there was no reason for Scorsese to take a break from his busy Dicraprio filming schedule to helm this ship. Aside from cutting in a few interviews and manufacturing a ridiculously contrived beginning and ending, there’s no point in having a film director in charge of this. You just grab a few cameramen and shoot. I especially didn’t understand why Scorsese decided that only during one song would he cut into it with a few quick snippets of interviews. He leaves every other song unmolested but chooses to pick on one performance? That’s just stupid.

One of the draws for the film will be that it’s in the IMAX format. I’m of two minds about it. On the plus side, it really enhances the notion that you’re right in the front row of the concert. However, the really great part about IMAX films are their ability to immerse an audience in an environment and I think it’s best for material that involves a lot of action and movement, i.e. flying, underwater exploration, race car driving. Scorsese didn’t use too many grand sweeping shots of the arena so you never really feel like you leave your seat. The extra cost of using IMAX seems a little like overkill but again, the larger format will please die-hard Stones fans so I can let that go for the most part.

Thankfully, and to no great surprise, the performances themselves are great. I really enjoyed seeing the Rolling Stones do their thing, whether that’s Mick prancing around or Keith smoking an entire carton of cigarettes in one concert. (And there’s no way to measure the creepiness/skeletal nature of Keith Richards in IMAX, it’s off the charts!)

There are also a few guests who perform with the Rolling Stones; Buddy Guy, Jack White and Christina Aguilera. Wait, Christina Aguilera? Sure, it was nice to interject the female form into the film but listening to her scream and prove her vocal range just seemed out of place. Jack White and Buddy Guy, however, really gave great performances that matched up with the songs they were a part of. So I guess two out of three isn’t so bad.

In the end, whether you should plunk down the extra cash to catch this in an IMAX theater comes down to your commitment to the Rolling Stones. If you’re a fan, then this concert film is for you. It’s far cheaper than an actual concert ticket and unless you’re a hot 19 year-old female, you’re not getting to the front row (seeing them stacked up in the front of the audience is hilarious, especially when juxtaposed with the band who are old enough to be their great grandfathers).

I’m giving “Shine a Light” a 3 out of 5. As a concert film, it’s successful. I might have given it another point if it was marketed as such, but Scorsese’s interjection of himself into the production was completely unnecessary and why title the film after the song they play when the end credits roll? I can’t be alone in thinking that’s weird. Still, Stones fans rejoice, here’s a film you can find some “satisfaction” in. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.