“Shine a Light” was a 2008 concert film Martin Scorsese made about The Rolling Stones. It’s also the name of an unrelated, yet outstanding song from Wolf Parade from their equally outstanding debut album. This video was not directed by Martin Scorsese. Can you tell?
I watched the Scorsese doc for the first time a few weeks ago, and was surprised by its mediocrity. The musical performance was as cartoonish as I expected, but I’m surprised by the praise the film itself has gotten. Scorsese commissioned an all-star team of Oscar-nominated cinematographers to shoot two Stones concerts, but the result is pretty much by the numbers as far as concert films go. There’s no compelling storyline, though Scorsese tries to create some drama early on when Mick Jagger takes issue with settling on a pre-approved setlist. It’s one thing to artificially create drama over something so ridiculous as a setlist – it’s nother when the drama in question really isn’t even an issue. (It seems like an issue given that Scorsese wants to plan every “shot” beforehand, but let’s face facts: There are over a dozen cameras filming the show. It’s unlikely a shot will be missed with this type of coverage. Jagger’s dance moves are pretty predictable.) The archival footage in the film had me rolling my eyes on more than one occasion, particularly when a young Mick Jagger says he can’t imagine the Stones lasting another year (Get it? Because not only did they last ANOTHER year, but they’ve coasted for decades since then! Woof.)
Quentin Tarantino recently said that the problem with most movies is that nothing really happens. The goal of the film is announced within the first 15 or 20 minutes, and the rest of the film is spent trying to achieve that goal, but there are no variations on the storytelling. That’s the main problem with Scorsese’s film: nothing happens. To be fair, it’s a concert movie, and in most concert movies, nothing happens aside from the music. But I’m much more forgiving of this being the case with younger filmmakers. Here, I just find myself wondering why they would need an all-star crew to achieve something so conventional. Then again, I’ve never quite understood the overwhelming praise of "The Last Waltz," a film I like, but one where the mission statement seems to be “There sure was a lot of cocaine around in the ‘70’s,” so maybe I’m just bothered by how Scorsese’s documentaries seem unable to match the quality of his features (though "No Direction Home" was outstanding.) Or perhaps the overwhelming awesomeness of "Stop Making Sense" has just ruined the curve for all that have followed.