Directed by Martin Scorsese
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 121 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: July 29, 2008
Review Date: July 21, 2008
The house is really rockin’ in Martin Scorsese’s docu-concert Shine a Light. Not as trenchant a look at a band as his The Last Waltz was several decades ago, Shine a Light is still a stunning distillation of rock’s elder bad boys The Rolling Stones doing their rock ‘n roll thing on stage at the Beacon Theater in New York City before a screeching, hyper-appreciative crowd of zealots. You may not learn much of what makes the rock band still tick after all these years in the spotlight, but if you’re a fan of their music, you’ll have undoubtedly as good a time as the capacity crowd at the Beacon did on this legendary night.
Scorsese has used eight cameras to catch the concert including four cinematographers who have won Oscars for their work in such films as Lord of the Rings, The Aviator, and There Will Be Blood. The result is a concert where the viewer is not only up close and personal but also darting in, out, in front, and behind the action throughout the evening. Mick Jagger hasn’t let his manic energy level drop a speck in the decades that he’s been doing this, and his strutting, prancing, jumping, and dancing stick figure seems almost ageless during many of the group’s signature numbers (ageless. that is, until the cameras come in close and we see every crease in his careworn face). And the camera is unforgiving to guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richard, too, as we see every year of life etched deeply upon their faces, still reflecting, however, their love of what they’re doing and their continuing passion for the music.
Before the concert gets underway, we’re subjected to ten or twelve minutes of Scorsese’s confusion and mounting angst over the band’s capricious attitudes toward the filming of the concert. Jagger has a fit about the stage design (even though Scorsese insists it was built to Jagger’s specifications), and Scorsese is run ragged trying to get a final rundown of the concert’s songs so he can plan camera moves ahead of time. Interspersed between some of the numbers is old interview footage going back as far as the 1960s where Mick mentions the band has been together for two years and they hope to get at least one more year of work. (Later interviews contradict this cavalier attitude where he insists he’ll be doing this when he turns 60.) The interviews also cover some jail time served by Jagger and Richards, but background isn’t given and those who aren’t intimately familiar with the Stones’ history will be lost with these comments. Perhaps Scorsese didn’t want to turn the film into too heavy a biography of the group’s career off the stage, but the footage he has here does no one any favors: fans already know the stories and those who don’t are only going to be baffled by the inclusion.
Every viewer will have his own favorite songs. I especially enjoyed the lighthearted spin on a country tune “Far Away Eyes” and Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy joining with Mick on a song apiece. Keith Richards gets two solo songs, but unquestionably the star of the show is Mick Jagger. Age sixty-three when the show was filmed in 2006, Jagger is a dervish and unless one finds rock music a complete anathema, it’s impossible not to be drawn into the beat and heat of the Rolling Stones’ songbook.
The film’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio is presented in a fine anamorphic transfer. The opening black and white footage is overly grainy though the reasoning for this isn’t clear. Clips from a variety of news sources also vary in quality (though this is no fault of the transfer). The concert footage itself is beautifully filmed with strong color and excellent sharpness. The film has been divided into 21 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track puts you right in the center of the concert with the music and cheering audience all around. Yes, it’s loud, but the lyrics are not drowned out by the music and crowd noises, and the occasional banter with the audience is also easily heard. Modern recording techniques can more than handle the intensity and variety of the music and vocals that make up the majority of the sound on this disc.
Four additional songs cut from the finished film are offered here in anamorphic widescreen: “Undercover of the Night” (4 ½ minutes ), “Paint It Black” (4 ½ minutes ), Little T & A (4 minutes ), and “I’m Free” (3 ½ minutes ). The viewer is also offered the option to watch all four in one 16 ¾ minute group or select them individually.
A behind-the-scenes featurette contains unaired scenes from interviews both recent and old, but its most priceless moments involve the Stones rehearsing some songs or simply doing some guitar riffing without any amplification or crowd response. The sound is so pure and hypnotic that it made for one of the most memorable aspects of this DVD release.
The disc offers nonanamorphic previews of American Teen, Defiance, The Duchess, and Son of Rambow.
Fans of the Rolling Stones are in for a treat with Shine a Light. They will find a beautifully filmed rock concert with better than front row seats and expert sound at their command. For its historical and musical impact, it’s definitely recommended.