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  Shine a Light

Featuring: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Produced by: Steve Bing, Michael Kohl, Zane Weiner, Victoria Pearman

Written by: Music by The Rolling Stones; Neuroticism by Martin Scorsese

Distributor: Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage


     Well, I think it’s now safe to say that Martin Scorsese—as if he hadn’t accomplished enough for the Arts already—has now successfully eliminated any reason one might have to attend a Rolling Stones concert at any point during the next month. Instead of paining oneself with the price of $100 nosebleed-seatstickets, the impossible feat of parking at a ginourmous venue, and the time wasted by engaging in such tomfoolery, one can now simply scoot on over to one’s local multiplex and sling out $10 to see the Stones like they’ve never been seen before. Scorsese, completely no-frills in his approach, fills the frames of Shine a Light (of course, named after the famous Stones’ tune) with nearly two hours of nonstop music. He only pauses occasionally to offer some meta-on-meta commentary on how impossible it is to make a concert film when it stars the unpredictable Mick Jagger and a few snippets from early interviews of the band. The rest is the show, filmed at a Beacon Theatre benefit held in New York City in September 2006 and edited down to a finished product that consists of nearly-non-stop music. Even if you aren’t a fan of all the Stones’ songs, you’ll still find yourself enjoying the film for the ones that you do. And, as if Shine a Light wasn’t a treat enough for music-enthusiasts already, it also features onstage collaborations with superstars Jack White and Christina Aguilera.

     Of course, I should also mention that the movie has been blown up for IMAX, the optimum format in which it should be enjoyed. Scorsese makes use of the medium in very straightforward ways—he’s not a flashy director, after all—but these mark perhaps some of the best reasons to give a picture the IAMX-treatment in the first place. Not only does the 70mm film, with wonderful black-levels and startling motion, capture the full glory of a Stones’ performance on a giant screen, it allows for one of the most spectacular transitions in recent movie-history. Scorsese opens the film in a tiny frame that fills about one-fifth of the screen, almost causing viewers to ask: “Is this a joke? Did Paramount Vantage really not have enough cash to finance a proper IMAX movie?” Just as we settle down to accept that the film will be of this limited size after watching twenty-minutes of it, Scorsese finally receives a song-list from Jagger and the band starts to perform. The size of the frame multiplies in seconds, its colors and vividness leaving viewers speechless. Indeed, this is a stop on the Stones’ “Bigger Bang Tour.” The music begins and the 15,000-watt, six-channel sound radiates through the theatre. Shine a Light becomes a piece of work that isn’t just a simple concert-movie, but an experience – truly a contemporary re-working of the standard music-based motion-picture.

     Of course, it helps that Scorsese brought together Robert Richardson and nine other Oscar-winning cinematographers to photograph the concert. Between all of the beautiful shots his team captured of the show, he’s never tempted to fall for the schizophrenic, MTV-style approach that so many of his younger contemporaries would have. Shine a Light is thankfully all Jagger, Wood, Watts, and Richards – with, of course, a little Scorsese and Bill Clinton (why!?) thrown in for good measure. No unnecessary filler—technical or content-related—is needed here, thankyouverymuch.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 4.1.2008

Screened on: 4.5.2008 in IMAX at the Bridge: Cinema de lux West Los Angeles, CA.


Shine a Light is rated PG-13 and runs 122 minutes.

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