- Jun 3, 1999
The lights dim as we hear radio communications all around us, and the audience is just revving up. Their screams of passion get louder, and louder. And, then, we are given a blast -- literally, as the stage blasts fire like a string of musical explosions, throwing us into (at least I believe) a performance by the greatest rock and roll band in the world. "Start Me Up," performed by none other than the Rolling Stones, fills my eyes and blows my senses out of the water. And there's more where that came from.
This, boys and girls, is what rock concerts are all about. "Rolling Stones -- Live At The Max", the 1991 IMAX film by Julian Temple, may very well go down as the most exciting film event that I have ever encountered in my short 21 years of existence, and even shorter as a film critic. I'm sitting here, mere hours after the experience, dazed and senseless, not even knowing how I have the energy to type after having been born again.
This goes down as proof that the IMAX format works. Normally, this technology is used for short documentaries that focus on nature, the evolution of speed or space. "At The Max," which is 90 minutes long and requires an intermission (so the film can be changed over, since IMAX platters can only hold 40 minutes horizontal 70mm film), is like not only like giving you the front seats at your favorite concert, but the picture and sound make you feel like you are in the eyes of those people in front.
It's not just the format that makes this film what it is. The awesome music, full of energy and great appeal, is unforgettable. As our lead singer, Mick Jagger is a dazzling force of energy, still an enormously entertaining individual to watch. He runs around on the mammoth stage, singing along as much as he can, while the forces that help him, they being the awesome Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Bill Wyman, perform many of the songs that made them famous all over the world, and some new songs; well, new in 1990 when this "Steel Wheels" concert took place, but this film takes you out of your seat and into the experience so well, you'd swear you forget you were in the 21st century.
There's nary an interview or anything involving the backstage process (see their 1970 documentary "Gimme Shelter"), just a document of one hell of a concert. The entire experience feels so real and so dazzling that we drift into a dreamlike state. With the IMAX format, the music pounds in our ears and the visuals dance in our senses. Sure, there may be more fascinating concert films ("Woodstock: Three Days of Peace And Music" is one of my top five films of all time), but I've never walked on the stage, walked along with Mick and the boys and HEARD music like this ever before. "At The Max" made me feel great to be alive.
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