*Shine a Light (PG-13)
Cinemark 16 IMAX
Martin Scorsese returns to the rock 'n roll concert documentary a genre that he helped develop in 1978 with The Last Waltz and captures an energized performance by The Rolling Stones at New York's Beacon Theater in late 2006.
Augmented with brief interview and performance clips, Shine a Light provides an intimate look at one of rock's greatest bands performing timeless favorites and a few lesser-known songs.
Buddy Guy, Jack White and Christina Aguilera make memorable guest appearances, but Mick Jagger's famous athleticism captures the imagination.
Even in his 60s, Jagger never stops moving, like a juiced-up Iggy Pop, as he drives the band to the far reaches of sonic space. Scorsese seals the enchanting event with a closing bit of camera virtuosity that puts it all in context.
We get a taste of the fascinating working dynamic between Mick and Martin in a phone-message clip from Jagger about confusion regarding the stage set that's being built before being approved. There's plenty of tension and personality in Jagger's concerned voice, as Scorsese's good-humored ability to make snap decisions enables the crew around him to carry out his will.
While Scorsese focused on capturing a cultural zeitgeist when shooting The Band for The Last Waltz, here he goes after the honed inner workings of a cultural icon.
The communication between the musicians is nearly always visible, and it's inside this happy convergence of rock orchestration that we experience the Stones as a group running on instinct. That might sound odd, considering the amount of experience the band has accumulated over its 46 years, but the Stones are so marinated in the joy of making music together that their songs can't help but sound refreshed.
More than a sampling of the band's endurance, the film is a wide-open celebration of the music that the Stones have expounded on. When Jack White joins Mick on "Loving Cup," the two singers harmonize from different registers. Both men strum away on acoustic guitars, and the effect is an eerie and whiny country-inflected sound that digs under swamp-tree roots to extract a rough and rugged pearl. Keith Richards gets some well-deserved center-stage time with "You Got the Silver" and "Connection," his bruised voice stretching across intervals.
There's just enough vintage interview footage to give a sense of Jagger's ironic honesty, which engulfs the audience on songs like "Sympathy for the Devil" and the Muddy Waters' classic "Champagne and Reefer" with blues icon Buddy Guy. In one hilarious clip, Jagger gets out of a helicopter, after just being released from jail on drug charges, to walk across an English estate lawn for a group discussion with a clergyman and other community pillars.
Like a schoolhouse rebel brought before a British PTA meeting, Jagger revels in the negative attention. After all, he knows something they never will: utter liberation through rock 'n roll. One look at Shine a Light and you can see why The Rolling Stones eclipse every other rock act. Even put up against any show you actually attended, this might be the most intimate concert experience you've ever had.