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Concert footage from New York's Beacon Theatre during The Rolling Stones' 2006 "A Bigger Bang" tour, with footage from interviews and appearances from earlier in their career.

Review by Louise Keller:
Spending a couple of hours in 'the zone' which Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones inhabit, courtesy Martin Scorsese is quite a rush. If The Stones exemplify a life of drugs, sex and rock 'n roll, then bring it on, is all I can say! Unbridled energy rockets from the stage, especially from Jagger, whose physicality can be likened to a primal sexual urge. Scorsese is puppeteer to the thrills of a live concert kept intimate in New York's atmospheric Beacon Theatre. But there's more. It is most importantly presented with context, including the chaos surrounding the making of the film, plus selected gems of archival interview footage, expertly edited within. And then, of course, there's the music - that contagious, relentless beat and rhythm of known and lesser known tunes associated with one of the greatest rock 'n roll bands of all time. My feet, hands and body didn't stop moving during the entire film - Shine a Light is a riveting, unforgettable and uplifting experience that comes close to speeding along the runway before take-off.

The film begins in grainy black and white as preparations for the making of the film begin. There's Scorsese himself pulling his hair out, showing the frustration of someone used to careful planning, giving way to the commotion of spontaneity. There are phone calls, meetings, stage rehearsals and the design of the set. Then camera crews and musicians take their place as (then) President Clinton makes his introductions on stage. It's a seemingly apt coming together of three types of rock stars of a similar age but from different areas: film, politics and music. Then the music begins: a pounding, upbeat conglomerate of notes, rhythms and lyrics. Jumpin' Jack Flash, Shine a Light, Start Me Up, Some Girls, Far Away Eyes are a few. Jagger's raw energy, Keith Richard's showmanship, Ronnie Wood's singing guitar, Charlie Watt's champion drumming. The lights go down and the mood changes when Jagger sings As Tears Go By, with Richard's accompaniment on an acoustic 12 string guitar.

Thank goodness plastic surgery has no place here - every crevice and wrinkle is meaningful and Richards' aging pirate complete with black sequined bandana is almost a caricature of himself. The archive interview clips are priceless, with a young and handsome Jagger expressing surprise at the longevity of the group - two years after they began. Richards talking about 'just doing it' without analysis, and drummer Charlie Watts saying 'I don't know' to everything. Guests include Jack White, Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy, whose rendition of Champagne and Reefer with Jagger on the harmonica is a highlight. There's a real sense of excitement and anticipation throughout this spectacular musical event and when The Stones deliver their final number (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction before facing the barrage of media and photographers, the irony is that it seems this legendary 60 something rock group has plenty of it - satisfaction, that is.

Review by Andrew L. Urban
If you went along having taken to heart the film's promo in which it is touted as a career spanning doco of The Rolling Stones, Shine A Light would be a bit disappointing. It's nothing of the sort. It is essentially a multi-camera recording of the Stones' concert at the Beacon in New York in 2006, with half a dozen snippets of footage from interviews from much earlier times. These are all entertaining, but hardly sufficient to make up a career spanning doco.

The film begins promisingly with some backstage footage during preparations, with Martin Scorsese looking concerned, elated or busy. We could have had more of these, especially when some of the clips are truncated at interesting moments - like Mick Jagger and Scorsese disputing who wanted the extravagant stage. Captions pop up stating various cities as locations, but in fact we are in the one location.

Then we launch into the concert, and there is a great sense of immediacy as the band and its backing vocals and musos get stuck into the set. The concert covers plenty of ground, but Scorsese's insistence on focusing the vast majority of shots on Jagger ends up reducing the impact of the show. Sure, he's the strutting star, but there is so much more that we should have been able to enjoy, without losing out on his performance.

For a start, there is Keith Richards in full pirate regalia, complete with skull and crossbones lapel badge, a large gold skull ring (or two), chains off his belt and on his wrist, sharing space with beads, and dangling decorations from his gently sparkling black bandana, holding his mop in place as he swoons and bends as he teases his axe. Here was an opportunity to grab some close ups of all this stuff while he played.

Likewise, it was a chance to observe Ronnie Woods in action, his playing as well as his facial performance. We caught all too short glimpses of the backing vocals and the backing players, all of whom contribute so much to the gig. And with far too few wide shots, the band might well have been playing in a studio set. Another opportunity lost. Finally, the crowd were right up at the stage and we could have got all hot and sweaty grabbing good reaction shots.

Guest spots from Christina Aguilera, Jack White and Buddy Guy are welcome, but shot in TV talk show mode, again losing context - and the oomph of the full stage alive with antics from a rock band whose energy has hardly waned in 40 years.

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(US/UK, 2008)

CAST: Documentary about The Rolling Stones featuring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Woods, Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy, Martin Scorsese and others

PRODUCER: Steve Bing, Michael Cohl, Victoria Pearman, Zane Weiner

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson

EDITOR: David Tedeschi

MUSIC: The Rolling Stones

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes



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