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Originally published Friday, April 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Movie review

Martin Scorsese's "Shine a Light" captures the great sound and brash spirit of the Rolling Stones

Movie review Martin Scorsese secures his position as rock's greatest movie documentarian with "Shine a Light," the most remarkable, most...

Seattle Times music critic

Movie review3.5 stars

"Shine a Light," with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

122 minutes. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, drug references and smoking. Neptune and IMAX Theater at Pacific Science Center.

Martin Scorsese secures his position as rock's greatest movie documentarian with "Shine a Light," the most remarkable, most satisfying concert film since his elegant, influential "The Last Waltz" 20 years ago, filmed at The Band's 1976 farewell show.

Scorsese was an assistant director and an editor for "Woodstock" in 1970, and in recent years helmed the seven-film series "Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues" and "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan," both for PBS, and available on DVD.

Other auteurs have tackled the Rolling Stones — including Jean-Luc Godard ("Sympathy for the Devil: One Plus One"), the Maysles Brothers ("Gimme Shelter") and Hal Ashby ("Let's Spend the Night Together") — but none worked as closely with the Stones as Scorsese. They planned and executed the project together, with Scorsese virtually co-starring with the Stones in a sort of character role — the fidgety, anxious, finally content director.

Because the project was imagined as a movie from the beginning — rather than just filming a concert — everything is set up visually. Twenty cameras capture the action from every angle. The panning, zooming and quick cuts are constant, showing the energy and personalities of each of the Stones.

The beautiful, historic Beacon Theater in New York, a legendary rock hall (Keith Richards calls it "one of my favorite rooms"), has never looked better. It gleams in gold and brown tones. The acoustics are sharp, and the sound is perfect.

Close-ups detail the etched faces of the Stones, but they've never seemed more ageless. Their music and spirit are still brash and youthful. Mick Jagger is amazing, with his signature dance moves and constant action. He sounds better than ever, and so does Richards, who obviously took great care with his vocals, probably to please Scorsese.

The director practically tears his hair out when he doesn't get a set list until the last minute — not realizing Jagger and Richards always select songs just before the show, according to their mood, the venue and the audience — and worries about things like camera angles and lighting ("We cannot burn Mick Jagger," he tells the lighting director. "We want the effect, but we cannot burn him").

The band is in near-perfect sync. Their backup singers and musicians are in top form, too. And their guest artists are apt additions: the brilliant Jack White of the White Stripes; the gifted Christina Aguilera, who's never sounded better (both these relative newcomers were brought to the band by perpetually hip drummer Charlie Watts); and the legendary bluesman Buddy Guy (who guests on "Champagne & Reefer").

Vintage interview footage is interspersed throughout — smart, quick bits that add historical context while referencing the onstage action.

The set list leans heavily on classics like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash." The soundtrack was released Tuesday on Interscope Records.

Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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