Shine a Light [Blu-Ray]
Director : Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2008
At this point, the Rolling Stones have been the subject of so many documentaries and concert films that the idea of making a “definitive” performance film about the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” is largely beside the point. Thus, in Shine a Light, director Martin Scorsese, whose last big-screen concert documentary, The Last Waltz (1978), chronicled The Band’s final performance, chose to focus the film on the Stones’ longevity as exemplified in a single concert, in this case the Stones’ September 2006 performance at New York’s famed Beacon Theater, which was one of two charity concerts for the Bill Clinton Foundation (the great Boomer director captures the great Boomer band’s concert in honor of the great Boomer president).
The very fact that the Stones are still rocking and rolling and doing so with arguably the same raw swagger, energy, and presence that they had decades ago is testament to their perseverance in an arena that is defined more by Pete Townsend’s hope that he dies before he grows old than the glory of being an elder statesman. Even the greatest of the greats have been beset with break-ups (The Beatles), untimely deaths (The Who), and lapses into self-parody (Elvis). But, somehow the Stones have managed to stay together and maintain a strong claim to both musical and cultural relevance, which is what elevates Shine a Light from a well-made concert film to a moving tribute.
While the bulk of the film is made up of the Stones’ performance at the Beacon Theater concert, Scorsese breaks away from the music from time to time with brief bits of old interviews and newsreel footage of the band at various stages in their long career. When interviewers inquire about the Stones’ long-range plans and their forecasts for their own future, the responses are at times ironic and at other times prescient. In one segment, an incredibly youthful-looking Mick Jagger from the mid-1960s talks about how amusing it is that the band has been at it for two years and is still referred to as “new,” and then casually notes that he thinks they have at least one more year left in them. Fast-forward about 15 years, and we get another interviewer asking a somewhat older Jagger whether he can imagine himself still rocking when he’s 60, to which the frontman immediately answers “Absolutely.”
And so it is. Now well into their 60s, the Stones are still able to put together an amazing live show, and Scorsese’s cameras (helmed by nine Oscar-winning or -nominated cinematographers led by Robert Richardson) are on hand to capture it from all angles, reveling in the close-ups of Jagger’s facial contortions, the limber fingers of Keith Richards and Ron Wood on the guitars, and Charlie Watts’ refined, no-nonsense drumming. Each man is creased with age (especially Richards), but they have a lithe, lively presence that belies their years and the hard living that went into them. Jagger especially is every bit the boisterous stage presence we saw in earlier concert documentaries like Gimme Shelter (1970) and Let’s Spend the Night Together (1982), writhing and swaggering, rushing the edge of the stage and bouncing exuberantly as he pours his vocals their most enduring classics (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Start Me Up,” “Sympathy for the Devil”). The band also shares the stage with special guests Jack White, Christina Aguilera, and Buddy Guy, with whom they cover Muddy Waters’ “Champagne & Reefer.” The concert is simple and direct, with little in the way of pyrotechnic flash, which only reaffirms the Stones’ powerful presence as icons who seems to have outlived their time and started new lives.
The film’s opening 15 minutes, shot on video and in grainy black and white, are deliberately self-conscious in depicting the set-up prior to the concert, in which Scorsese frets about where to aim his lenses and Jagger questions whether the giant camera crane Scorsese wants swinging back and forth will distract the audience. It’s an interesting bit of insight into two competing arts--live music and the cinema--with the former relying on the lived-in moment while the latter reconstructs it. Interesting as it is, I’m not sure if this prologue was necessary, especially the later segments that show Clinton and his entourage (including Hilary and her mother) showing up for an awkward meet and greet. Of course, once the concert gets rolling, these early sequences all but fade from memory, which is but one more testament to the power of Jagger and company to command the stage, which is why Scorsese was wise to bow out as an on-screen presence and let the music do the talking.
|Shine a Light Blu-Ray|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||Paramount Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||July 29, 2008|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Shine a Light was shot on multiple formats, including Super 35mm, Super 16mm, and HDCAM, so the film’s visual quality varies across its running length. The opening segments were shot primarily on video and have a purposefully grainy quality, while the majority of the concert itself was shot on 35mm film. The high-definition transfer on this Blu-Ray disc is gorgeous, accentuating the purposefully crude nature of the early scenes with the smooth, colorful footage of the concert itself. Colors are strong and bold throughout, and the amazing levels of detail truly bring you into the moment. Since this is a concert film, the soundtrack is of the utmost importance, and both the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtracks are superb. The music is nicely balanced across the front soundstage, while the surround channels are frequently used for audience noise to give you the sense of being right there in the theater. It is a genuinely immersive experience.|
|Fans of the Rolling Stones will enjoy the fact that the disc includes four additional song performances that were cut from the final film: “Undercover of the Night,” “Paint It Black,” “Little T & A,” and “I’m Free,” each of which offers both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. The 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette is really just outtake footage of the band warming up and rehearsing.|
Copyright ©2008 James Kendrick
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