One Bright ‘Light’

Ben Raymond

The Rolling Stones are a combined 254 years old.

That’s 254 years of platinum albums, chart-topping smash hits and awe-inspiring concerts.

They’ve traveled, smoked and slept with nearly the entire planet.

Martin Scorsese is one of cinema’s most celebrated directors, boasting titles like “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas,” “The Departed” and “Taxi Driver” (which I believe is the best film ever made).

He has directed some of film’s greatest actors: De Niro, Foster, Liotta, Pesci, Day-Lewis, DiCaprio, Blanchett, Damon, Nicholson and others.

All of them – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts and Martin Scorsese – sat down at The New York Palace last Sunday to talk about their film, “Shine a Light,” a documentary and live-concert movie experience as big as the names in the marquee.

“Shine a Light” is Scorsese’s first film since winning best director and best picture in 2006 for the “The Departed.” And unlike his 2005 Bob Dylan biopic “No Direction Home,” which was a reserved, even contemplative picture, “Shine a Light” is a massive, high-adrenaline film reflecting The Stones themselves.

“Shine a Light” is indeed a special kind of documentary. The biography-based storytelling typical of documentaries is abandoned in favor of concert footage and celebrity interviews.

This makes for a sleeker, sexier – dare I say it – hipper film for a wider audience and a bigger screen.

In fact, “Shine a Light” is made for the biggest of screens: IMAX.

The panoramic, earth-shattering technology once confined to science centers and natural history museums is the perfect place for the hugeness and intensity of The Rolling Stones.

A reporter from “Entertainment Tonight” asked, “I understand that the film will also be available on IMAX. How will the experience be different for the fans?”

“It’ll be very large,” Jagger joked. “Some slight imperfections might be revealed.”

Jagger, shriveled as he is, still kicks his legs and thrusts his pelvis with the oversexed delight of a pre-teen Swedish boy.

And although he’s enjoying every minute of it, squeamish audience members like yours truly will want to look away.

“Shine a Light” should be rated R for “graphic hot pants, lumpiness and explicit crotchiness all involving senior citizens.”

Jagger continued, saying, “The funny thing is that Marty, after looking at all the options, decided he wanted to make this small, intimate movie. And I said, the laugh is, ‘Marty, in the end, it’s going to be blown up to this huge IMAX thing.'”

And it works beautifully.

Filmed with over 15 cameras in the small-but-storied Beacon Theatre in New York, the grassroots essence of The Rolling Stones aligns with the still-manic sound of their later years.

The viewer sees their foundation and future at once. About playing at the hallowed Beacon Theatre, Richards commented, “The Beacon Theatre is special for some reason. I mean, it wraps your arms – especially if you can play for more than one night as we did. Every night gets warmer.”

He gathered his thoughts for a moment and finished, saying, “This band didn’t start in stadiums.”

On the topic of starting points, Scorsese touched on his youth and growing up a Stones fan.

“I grew up in a place that was like [Berthold Brecht’s] ‘The Threepenny Opera,'” he said. “And I think, at times, The Rolling Stones’ music had a similar effect on me. It dealt with aspects of life that affected me when I was growing up, that I was associated with or saw or was experiencing.”

He said this so earnestly. It was poignant, real.

But the afternoon was dominated by laughter. In one of the hour’s best moments, a female reporter, possibly in her early sixties, asked the band about their superhuman stamina.

“This movie reminds us of the boundless energy you all have in what it takes to be on tour,” she said. “Mr. Jagger, you first, I’d love to know what vitamins you take and what’s your workout regimen.”

“Oh God,” Jagger interjected.

We all knew what this question really meant.

Richards looked particularly mischievous. His eyes glinted in the spotlights, his lip curled up to his nostrils and his eyebrows slanted in glee.

He couldn’t wait to talk about his “vitamins.”

Jagger said, “No gym. No vitamins. Just get out there and do it. You get very pressurized, especially when you know there’s a movie shoot. You really have to step up to the plate. And we did it. So, you know, you just have to sometimes come and do it.”

“It’s a turn-on,” Richards finished.

The “Shine a Light” press junket was one of the most memorable moments of my young life.

Scorsese and The Rolling Stones are living legends – the standard of excellence in each of their respective art forms.

Together, they have created a vibrant musical and filmic experience.

“Shine a Light” hits theaters and IMAX tomorrow.