Shine A Light


Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Released: May 29, 2008
Grade: B-

Warning: The following review contains controversy, incoherent gibberish and high-level grumpiness.  Reader discretion is advised.

What’s the deal with these “concert movies” that have sprung up in Australian cinemas?  Shine A Light is the third one I’ve seen this year.  It’s essentially a 2 hour movie where you watch the Rolling Stones play a concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

The opening 10 minutes or so are spent watching director Martin Scorsese (The Departed) try to organise the show with lead vocalist Mick Jagger.  They have differing opinions and there are funny scenes.  It’s not easy trying to play when you’ve got video cameras circling around the stage.  It’s a challenge for both the band and the director.

Unfortunately for me, this was the best part of the film.  The rest of it is the concert with a few old interviews thrown in after every 2 or 3 songs.  My problem is that I’m not a fan of the Rolling Stones.  I’ve got nothing against them personally but I’ve never been into their music and I didn’t know most of the songs they were singing.

This leaves in a tricky dilemma.  How do I review this movie?  Is it even a movie?  One of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen was called DiG!  It was released in 2004 and took a behind the scenes look at The Dandy Warhols (who went on to fame and fortune) and The Brian Jonestown Massacre (who could never get their careers off the ground).  I didn’t know either of these bands either but what made the film interesting was that it took us behind the scenes.  I learned just how up and down the music industry can be.

My point is that a documentary such as DiG! could appeal to anyone.  I know nothing about music but still found it fascinating.  On the other hand, Shine A Light will only appeal to fans of the Rolling Stones.  I can tell you that watching this movie was one of the most boring 2 hours of my year so far.  That’s just how it was for me.  I realise a lot of people (especially Stones fans) will think I’m being ridiculous.  They probably have a point.  I don’t know.  I’m completely lost.

As mind-numbingly tedious as I found the subject material, I do appreciate good cinematography when I see it.  Martin Scorsese and his team have done a terrific job capturing the concert.  There’s a range of cool camera angles and you get an appreciation of just how much passion the musicians put into their performances.  The sound capture is also superb.  I know it’s not as good as a real concert (since you can’t jump, scream and sing) but it still generates an atmosphere.

The biggest talking point that I take away from the film is whether these concert movies are going to become more common in cinemas.  Am I going to have to sit through a two-and-a-half hour Justin Timberlake concert?  Will I be forced to endure a three hour Celine Dion marathon.  I hope the answer is no.