Shine a Light

Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood Speak

In the pantheon of artistic greats, when the chalice is raised to praise the kings of rock and the kings of film, The Rolling Stones and Martin Scorsese will be amongst the first saluted. Both are pioneers of their craft, still forging ahead into legend while many of their contemporaries have long faded into time. I am pleased to report that their collaboration is befitting of their iconic status. Martin Scorsese launches The Rolling Stones like a missile at the screen. Filmed at a benefit concert in New York City's famed Beacon theatre, Shine A Light captures The Rolling Stones awesome energy. Scorsese adeptly cuts archival footage of the Stones past interviews into their ridiculously hard-rocking set. The theme, quite simply, is that these guys are still kicking as much ass as they did in the sixties. They've gone from rebels to mainstream, but the music is still in overdrive forty years later.

Stones mania was in high gear at the Palace Hotel last weekend in New York City. It was exactly what you expect when The Rolling Stones are in the house. Groupies begging journalists to sneak them in, photographers lined up like army men for their fifteen minute photo op, security guarding every possible entrance like hawks. It was a spectacle to behold. Even the jaded reporters who normally spend all day bitching were excited like children. So the crowd cheers, the bulbs flash, and The Rolling Stones and Scorsese saunter in. Here are some choice excerpts from their press conference and some bonus footage from the making of Shine A Light.

Mr. Scorsese, why was it important for you to make this film in a small venue in your native Manhattan?

Martin Scorsese: We discussed doing it at a bigger arena and while I was trying to prepare for that, I began to realize that I'm better suited to try to capture the group on stage, on a small stage. More for the intimacy of the group, the way they play together, the way you see the band work together and work each song. I found that to be interesting. I love to be able to see that and be able to cut from one image to the other, movement, that sort of thing, but really about the intimacy of the group and how they work together

Mick at one point says "You've been a great audience." I'm sure you've said that before and I'm sure you'll say it again. Was this audience special?

Mick Jagger: The audience was a good audience, because I think they really got into the spirit of the movie as well as enjoying being an audience for the band.

Keith Richards: They were all cameramen.

(room laughs)

Keith Richards: The Beacon Theater is special for some reason anyway. The room sort of wraps its arms around you, and every night, it's warmer. It's a great feeling room, and also, this band didn't start off in stadiums.

Charlie, do you want to say something about it being a special night?

Charlie Watts: No.

(more laughter)

Ronnie Wood: I knew he'd say that.

The film is available both on regular screens and also on IMAX. How will that experience be different for fans?

Mick Jagger: It will be larger.

Ronnie Wood: The slight imperfections might be revealed.

We're all impressed with how this movie reminds us of the boundless energy it takes to be on tour. Starting with Mr. Jagger, what vitamins do you take and what's your workout regiment?

Mick Jagger: God! You can forget about that.

Keith Richards: If we tell you, you'll all be on it.

(laughter)

Mick Jagger: No gym, no vitamins, just do it, just get out there. You get very pressurized in these situations. You really have to come up to the plate, and fortunately, we had two nights. It's good to play there more than one night, because the first night we played was more like a rehearsal for us in a way, and by the time the second night came 'round, we got more adjusted to playing in a small theater. We played lots of small theaters in the past. We hadn't done it on this tour, so this was quite different to suddenly go into this small theater. By the second night, we knew how to sort of do it, this was going to be the night with all these people there and everything, but I felt really good. You just have to almost come and do it.

Keith Richards: But it was a turn on.

Why did you choose Marty as the director?

Mick Jagger: He's the best one around.

But what would he do that other directors wouldn't?

Mick Jagger: I can't answer that. He's not part of the furniture. He's a fantastic director, and you [Scorsese is seated beside him] assembled a wonderful crew. I think he would agree with that. He got fantastic DPs, camera, lighting, everyone working on it, and then very painstaking on the editing to produce the movie that you see. It's not all in the shooting. It's obviously in the editing, too.

Keith Richards: Also, we didn't choose Marty. Marty chose us.

Martin Scorsese: It was mutual.

For Marty, which song was the most important and emotional to you when you saw the final film?

Martin Scorsese: That's a hard one, because the entire concert was composed by them as one piece of music in a way.

At the last minute...

Martin Scorsese: Well, we fudged that a bit. I mean, it felt like that. It really is impossible to answer, sorry.

A lot of people have called this movie a meditation on aging, I just wonder why you guys chose that set list?

Mick Jagger: I don't know now. It was eighteen months ago.

Keith Richards: Michael [Mick] always comes up with the set list because he's got to sing them. Unless I say suddenly, "Mick, you've got ten songs in the same key". I don't interfere. We make it up because the man's got to sing them.

Mick Jagger: Yeah, I think you pick the one you think is best for the night really.

How much are you guys still having fun, and were there moments of that you tried to capture?

Mick Jagger: It took us two days to shoot the picture, but we've spent four days doing the premieres and promotions. It's taken us twice as long doing that. Shooting this movie was quite nerve-wracking in some ways for us, and in other ways it was fantastically enjoyable. I'm sure that Marty has got a lot of things going on, and he's got to cover it when it happens. It was quite a challenge. Talking about having fun, it was great fun, but it was great challenge for everyone sitting at this platform both on the night and after it. Career wise, you always see things as great fun, but they're also challenges to do these things that are slightly different from what you do normally.

And in terms of what you wanted to capture?

Martin Scorsese: For me it was literally the moments when you can see the band working together. All the songs, it's like a narrative, a story, and the whole sound of the band is like a character, one character in each song. With the grace of these wonderful cinematographers, they were like poets at times, knowing exactly when to move that camera to pick up a member of the band. The key was to find the moments between the members of the band and how they work together. It's like a machine, its own entity during each song.

Who chose the documentary clips? And will you still perform when you're seventy?

Keith Richards: That's only five years away.

Martin Scorsese: Who chose the clips? Dave Tedeschi's the editor of the film, and we worked together almost ten months. The music came together rather quickly in the cutting. That was very enjoyable. The hardest part was putting together the clips. I think Dave had over four hundred hours of archival footage, and then he chose about forty hours for me to see. And then we worked from those forty hours. It was a matter of balancing, saying something, but not saying too much and then saying nothing with it. That was the key, and balancing it so it wouldn't unbalance the music in the piece.

Cinemark Movie Club
Julian Roman