Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts
Trivia: This was the first documentary ever to open the Berlin Film Festival
Marking his second venture as director of a concert film (following 1978’s The Last Waltz, which covered the final live performance of the rock group, The Band), Scorsese mixes things up a bit with Shine a Light, a 2008 movie featuring those ageless warriors of rock and roll, The Rolling Stones.
Shine a Light was shot over the course of two nights at New York’s Beacon Theater, a performance that was attended by, among others, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Joined on-stage by such guests as Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera, The Rolling Stones belt out some of their greatest hits, including Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Sympathy for the Devil.
During the first dozen or so minutes of Shine a Light, we’re privy to several conversations between director Scorsese and his crew (one of which is an absolute classic: when Scorsese is advised that, if Mick Jagger stands too long in front of a high-powered light, he’ll burst into flame, the director replies, quite nonchalantly, “Well, we can’t do that. We want the effect, but we cannot burn Mick Jagger”). We also see the conflicts that arose at times between the filmmaker and the band, like when the Rolling Stones don’t deliver a finalized playlist until just before going on stage, leaving Scorsese and his crew completely in the dark as to where best to place their cameras, or when Mick Jagger tells Scorsese too many cameras zooming around will be a distraction for the audience as well as everyone on stage (a point on which the director refuses to give any ground). Though its obvious some of it was staged for the movie, these opening moments are, nonetheless, an insightful look at artist vs. artist, with each side defending their right to create.
Then the music starts, and the result of all the back and forth plays out before our eyes. Shine a Light is, indeed, informative, but when the chips are down, it’s the chronicle of an ass-kicking concert by one of the greatest bands in Rock history.