Scorsese the Music Fan, Volume 3: “Shine A Light”

PG-13, 122 minutes, Paramount Classics

Sure Mr. Martin Scorsese is a filmmaker. Many people around the world, whether they be critics, film lovers, or others working around him in the world of cinema, would most likely consider him to be THE filmmaker, at least of his generation, with which I totally agree. If he were asked to give himself a title to what he is, I would think that above all it would boil down to the simple fact that he is a respectable fan. What has been such a significant factor in making the director’s career such a virtually flawless and consistently powerful one is that he has managed to surround himself with the things that influence him most, to let them drive him. Whether it is instilled images from Italian cinema with which he grew up with, the ruthless experiences with New York City organized crime in the 60’s, or the passion to pinpoint the perfect piece of music to accompany an already emotional frame; this man is truly a once-in-a-lifetime type of gift to the movies.

His love for a wide range of music has always complemented his films well, so when he found a glimpse of success with 1976’s Taxi Driver, he got the freedom to dictate what he would do down the immediate road of his career and eventually created what most consider the quintessential concert film. A farewell celebration for The Band, The Last Waltz was a star-studded event that was filmed unlike anything the music scene had been accustomed to at the time it was released in 1978. That was the first real look the world got at Scorsese the music fan, and it would certainly not be the last. A couple of years ago he put together No Direction Home, a staggeringly brilliant documentary for PBS on the early career of Bob Dylan. That is a piece of work that I think will stand the test of time to one day be considered a distinctive masterpiece among its genre. Now maybe more than ever, Scorsese is displaying just how much of an involved and appreciate music fan he is with the concert film, Shine A Light, showcasing The Rolling Stones’ 2006 performance at New York City’s Beacon Theater.

In an effort to create what has to be one of the most elaborate filming structures of a single, small venue concert ever, Scorsese works with more than a dozen cinematographers, chief among them Robert Richardson and including the likes of excellent names such as Robert Elswit and Emmanuel Lubeski. In a black-and-white prelude before the Beacon show begins, we get a glimpse into the obsessive and energetic filmmaker’s planning process. He has a direct working relationship with the legendary rock group, and as expected, particularly with Mick Jagger. There is a very interesting sequence in the beginning, a phone conversation between Scorsese and Jagger that could almost pass as an argument but is essentially a debate on whether or not to use moving cameras amidst the crowd. In this case, the legendary director’s opinion rules over the legendary singer/songwriter’s, and it’s a rare joy to watch the two agree to disagree. Scorsese puts himself in front of the camera quite a bit during the opening scenes and even in an exhilarating closing sequence that can only be seen to truly take in the power of. It is a good choice by the director, I think, to make himself just another part of the film by being in front of the camera this much, because he’s just making his point of simply being another one of the millions and millions of fans the band has accumulated over the last 40+ years.

The choice for making Shine A Light only available for screening in IMAX theaters was an undeniably right one. To witness a band continue to perform at such a high level and still with each original member, all at well over 60 years of age, is remarkable, especially when they’re put under the vision of THE filmmaker. The careers of both The Stones and Scorsese are eerily similar, so something like this wonderful film experience was bound to happen. Shine A Light is inevitably here, and inevitably great.

10/10

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