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Feature: Shine a Light

Scorsese and The Rolling Stones

Living legends Martin Scorsese and The Rolling Stones rock the house in their epic concert movie

It’s not often you that get to do a press junket where Martin Scorsese is outshone. But today is different. In Berlin with his latest film, Shine a Light, which opened the city’s 58th film festival, he’s accompanied by some very special guests. To coin a phrase; Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones. Never mind that they’re all in their 60s, and that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who formed music’s most potent songwriting partnership bar Lennon and McCartney, are set to draw their pensions this year. When the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band meets the world’s greatest director for a concert film, it can only be cinematic alchemy.

As you might expect for the self-styled leader of the Stones, a rake-thin Mick Jagger enters the room first, dressed in a lilac jumper, striped shirt and black jeans, and accompanied by his rhythm guitarist Ronnie Wood, wearing a light green cardigan, flowery shirt and plenty of gold jewellery. Later comes the wizened Richards, the band’s lead guitarist, who arrives with white-haired drummer Charlie Watts in tow. Recalling his role as Captain Jack Sparrow’s father in Pirates of the Caribbean, Richards’ thrift-store garb is in sharp contrast to Watts’ grey suit – a sombre outfit that befits his status as, at 66, the oldest member of the band.

In between them, the diminutive Scorsese arrives. Fresh off his long-overdue Best Director Oscar for The Departed, Shine a Light represents another side project for the director who recently chronicled the life of Bob Dylan in No Direction Home, and is currently working on projects about George Harrison and Bob Marley. Yet this is no documentary. With the title taken from a track on the seminal Exile on Main Street album, it’s a straight-up concert film, based around a gig at New York’s Beacon Theatre during the Stones’ recent A Bigger Bang tour. But why now? “If I was able to do it in 1981, I would’ve done it,” notes Scorsese. “But what’s interesting now is that they’ve been together over 40 years.”

You might say it’s a collaboration that’s been a long time coming. Scorsese has been using the Stones’ music ever since Robert De Niro sauntered into a bar in slow-motion in Mean Streets to the intoxicating sound of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’. “I just listened to their music all the time – along with other music of the period. But their music stood out,” explains Scorsese. “It was a very formative period for me, because it was the Sixties.” Since then, Scorsese and the Stones have been inextricably intertwined. ‘Gimme Shelter’ alone has been used three times by Scorsese, in Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed, something he ‘didn’t realize’ until it was pointed out recently.

by James Mottram

Read the full interview in
Film Review (May)

Photo © Twentieth Century Fox Film Company
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Film Review (May)
#695, May 2008
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