Live and kicking

Shine a Light

Shine a Light
Directed by Martin Scorsese. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

Martin Scorsese films the Rolling Stones. It’s an auspicious occasion, even if you’ve already factored out the built-in hype and mutual self-promotion that are unmistakable parts of the concept.

Onscreen Shine a Light distinguishes itself most of all as a very lively and unusually observant concert film. It’s also of interest, in somewhat unequal parts, as Scorsese movie and as Stones infomercial—and those elements contribute significantly, if somewhat erratically, to the ongoing entertainment.

Scorsese directs the film like the seasoned Stones fan that he apparently is. His brilliantly dynamic editing of the concert footage (from the 2006 shows setup expressly for Scorsese’s multicamera crew) is attuned above all to the Stones’ music, with occasional snippets of archival footage adding amiably to what is also a kind of commissioned portrait of the band and of the three sexagenarians, weather-beaten but still undefeat-ed, who remain from the original line-up.

It’s not surprising to find Scorsese’s pictures echoing the group’s latter-day presentation of itself—Keith Richards’ avuncular gypsy outlaw, Charlie Watts’ reluctant sage, Mick Jagger’s hyperkinetic jumping-jack flash. Jagger’s antic athleticism remains central to the Stones’ stagecraft and to their undiminished visual and cinematic appeal. And Scorsese’s only addition to these now-familiar images and moves is to portray himself as a frantic movie guy trying to keep up with Jagger’s genially elusive manipulations.

The Scorsese of Shine a Light is craftily moving somewhere between the elegiac raptures of The Last Waltz (his 1978 film on The Band’s farewell concert) and the astute assemblages of No Direction Home (the masterful Bob Dylan documentary that he pieced together in 2005). If there’s a truly first-rate Scorsese moment in this one, I’d say it turns up via the visual interplay of Jagger and Jack White sharing vocals on “Loving Cup.”

A couple of other numbers with guest appearances stand out as well—Christina Aguilera matches Jagger bump-for-grind on “Live With Me,” and Scorsese gives Buddy Guy visual and musical pride of place in a great version of “Champagne and Reefer.”

For this Stones fan, a couple of Stones-only moments were extra special as well—the exquisitely raucous jamming of three guitars (Richards, Jagger and Ronnie Wood) on a slightly modified “Some Girls” and Richards rising past his own bullshit on the vocal for “You Got the Silver.”