Photo by Kevin Mazur
Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film Shine a Light opens April 4. (My now-ex-colleague Felicia Feaster reviews it here.) It's good, but not in the league of the best concert films ever made . The paradox of Shine a Light is the way rock deity lead singer Mick Jagger comes across as remote yet dynamic, unspontaneous yet unstoppable. One of my favorite film critics, New York magazine's David Edelstein, describes Jagger's presence in Shine a Light with almost lyrical language:
Scorsese is canny enough to make Jaggerâs elusiveness the movieâs launching point: The director appears in a black-and-white prologue, trying to connect with the peripatetic bandleader about the set, the camera placement, the song list â¦ But Jaggerâs motor runs too fastâ too fast even for Scorsese, king of the speed-freaky motormouths. He seems unwilling to inhabit the same present, to open himself up for an instant. And thatâs true in concert, too, especially in signature jitterfests like âJumping Jack Flash,â where his automatic pilot is faster than ever: Heâs like the newest Terminator model, his rope-thin torso flicking determinedly, his cheeks sunken all the way to the armature. If you could replicate his movements exactly â Âevery lightning stutter-step and bob and finger wag â would you be able to discern what he was thinking? More likely youâd spontaneously combust.
I couldn't put it better myself. No, really. I couldn't.
By the way, do you want to know the funniest thing about Shine a Light?
Between songs, the film features very short interview segments from The Rolling Stones' history. Jagger appears in one early, black-and-white clip from the 1960s looking like he's still a teenager, and he asserts that the band isn't brand-new â they've been playing for a couple of years already. The off-screen interviewer asks him how much longer he thinks The Rolling Stones will make music, and Jagger says, "Well, at least a year..."