The Stones 'Light' up screens

Martin Scorsese's concert film captures Jagger's every strut and shimmy.

courtesy of kevin mazur/paramount vantage
Take a bow: Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts.

For those of us who are old enough to remember a time when the Rolling Stones were in their, uh, 30s, the prospect of seeing the Martin Scorsese documentary, "Shine a Light," is daunting. It's not just that the Stones are senior citizens now. It's that Scorsese's up-close cameras never let us forget it.

On the other hand, how many codgers can still prance like Mick Jagger?

The big question hovering over the early generation of rock stars was always this: Will they be able to continue doing what they are doing? Scorsese himself addresses this question directly in "Shine a Light" when he shows a 1972 clip of Dick Cavett asking Jagger if he can imagine carrying on when he's 60, to which Jagger replies. "Easily."

That may have seemed like a brash statement at the time but, watching "Shine A Light," you half expect Cavett to reappear and ask Jagger if he can imagine doing this when he's 80. To which the answer, by all appearances, would be, "Yes."

"Shine a Light" runs two hours and all but 20 of those minutes are devoted to the 2006 show in New York's Beacon Theater, a relatively intimate venue for the Stones, but perfect for capturing Jagger and Co.'s every strut and shimmy. (The Stones gave two concerts, but the second concert is the one from which most of the movie's footage is drawn.) More than 20 Stones songs are included and guests include Jack White, Christina Aguilera, and, best of all, that great bluesman Buddy Guy. Despite all the hyperkinetic glitz that the Stones sometimes indulge, they are and always have been a species of blues band, as this movie makes clear.

More so than any other director of his generation, Scorsese has long been associated with the rock-pop scene. He was editor on "Woodstock," used rock music to great effect on his soundtrack for "Mean Streets," made "The Last Waltz," perhaps the greatest rock documentary ever made, and most recently made the bloated Bob Dylan documentary "No Direction Home."

The disappointment is that, unlike "The Last Waltz," which got inside the skins of The Band and was clearly a deeply personal work, "Shine A Light" is essentially just an expertly made concert film. But what a concert! (And what a camera team – including Albert Maysles, who codirected "Gimme Shelter, and Robert Elswit, this year's Oscar winner for "There Will Be Blood.")

"Shine A Light" also lets us in on open secret: The Stones, at long last, are pussycats. Time, and the adoration of their fans, has domesticated them. Grade: B+

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, drug references, and smoking.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.