'Waltzing' the Stones

Watching Mick Jagger in Shine A Light, the Rolling Stones concert film directed by Martin Scorsese, is awe-inspiring.

rolling stones 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
rolling stones 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
SHINE A LIGHT * * * * Directed by Martin Scorsese. 122 minutes. In English, with Hebrew titles. Watching Mick Jagger in Shine A Light, the Rolling Stones concert film directed by Martin Scorsese, is awe-inspiring. You will feel, as virtually no non-psychotic person ever does in the modern world, that you are witnessing a miracle. There's simply no other word to describe the phenomenon that is Mick Jagger who at 64, electrifies the crowd for hours with his dancing and singing. In a strange way, he's better than ever. His face has grown more weathered, yet he's somehow handsomer - especially since Scorsese and his cinematographer light Jagger like a Renaissance painting. Some of the strutting of his earlier years, which could grate just a little on the non-fanatic fan, has been replaced by a streamlined intensity. And that hair - it can't be a toupee, the way he throws himself around. Anyone with a television set knows that millions of dollars can't buy you really good hair. No, the hair is just another part of the Jagger mystique. Forgive me for going on about all these details, but when you've gotten a glimpse of an actual immortal, all facts seem relevant. It's hard not to wonder how he does it, and whether sex, drugs and rock'n'roll won't be the new diet craze. You could change the title of this film to "Jagger-cize" and market it as an exercise video. People magazine can anoint Matt Damon "The Sexiest Man Alive," but many viewers of Shine A Light will certainly beg to differ. All that aside, Shine A Light is a masterful concert film, one that will appeal to movie lovers and hardcore Stones admirers alike. Scorsese, who is arguably the most highly regarded American director currently working, made another well-loved concert film, The Last Waltz, about the final gig of The Band in 1978. Tightly wound Scorsese likes to portray himself in public as a control freak and makes himself into a character in this film, as he communicates with the Stones at the beginning while they're on the road. He tries to get them to commit to a song list for the concert at the relatively intimate Beacon Theater in New York, where they will play in the film (in fact, Scorsese filmed two concerts edited together to seem like one). This bit of manufactured drama is a little silly. Scorsese is a longtime rock fan and surely knew what it would be like to work with a band who pride themselves on their hedonistic image. Otherwise, there isn't a misstep in the beautifully photographed movie. It's like watching a concert from the best seat you could imagine. And what a concert. Jagger, who is nothing if not smart about the way the Stones have always managed their career, mixes Stones' chestnuts (like "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Satisfaction") with newer hits and covers by various artists, including Muddy Waters. A few guests show up: Jack White of the White Stripes (who seems pallid next to Jagger), bluesman Buddy Guy and pop diva Christina Aguilera, the only young pop star who could hold her own next to Jagger (they perform a duet on "Live With Me"). Scorsese intersperses the concert footage with witty and rare clips of the Stones early in their career, answering the kind of pretentious, nonsensical questions rock reporters seem compelled to ask. These interludes are funny, giving a good overview of the band's career and of the changing times - without being heavy handed. Many of the clips show Jagger (and sometimes Keith Richards) being asked how long they think they can keep it up. It's not surprising that Jagger generally answers that he doesn't see himself ever stopping. Why would he? Richards performs as lead singer on one number, but the film belongs to Jagger from start to finish. That makes sense. Richards' brand of stoned-out cool just isn't as entertaining to watch as Jagger's manic dance. It is interesting, though, that after Johnny Depp has spent so much time channeling Richards in the character of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and since Richards himself played Depp's father in the last one, it's getting hard to tell whether you're watching Richards as himself or Depp imitate him. In the end, though, it doesn't matter whether you're a Mick or Keith fan. If you've read this far, you already know that you want to see this film. Unfortunately, it will only be playing in the Tel Aviv area. Even if you're coming from afar, it would be well worth the trip, although it may be a little tiring for those aging boomers whose hippie pasts didn't leave them quite as youthful as Jagger.