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Shine a Light

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The Rolling Stones, the rock ’n’ roll institution, are the subject of Shine A Light. Depending on your point of view, this is either the strength or weakness of Martin Scorsese’s concert documentary---shot over two performances at New York’s Beacon Theater. No other band has as many significant documentaries to their name, but Shine A Light is the Stones’ first that’s tied into the idea of their past significance. Scorsese repeatedly inserts old interview clips with the band, and finds the most on-stage energy with lesser-known numbers than “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Satisfaction,” which these guys are now playing out of duty to ticket buyers. The phenomenon of how Stones concerts attract so many non-fans is the underlying interest. By not adddressing this present legacy, Scorsese takes viewers out of the thrill of the live event whenever his camera turns to reveal that the front rows of the audience are made up of 25-year-olds. The greatness and impact of the Stones’ classic records are now blunted to sing-alongs. More about the band’s past should be in Shine A Light to explain this change. (It’s rumoured that Mick Jagger re-edited the film himself.) The cultural immediacy Scorsese found in his concert doc The Last Waltz (about The Band’s final show) only strikes Shine A Light through the IMAX-sized rock spectacle. It’s a big concert experience, but lacks Scorsese’s usual cinematic justification. Why didn’t Scorsese address 2008 by making a documentary about The White Stripes, or Justin Timberlake or Jay-Z instead?

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