Gimme Shelter this is not. The disillusions and stabbings of the 1969 concert have been replaced by the Clinton Foundation's benefit for the Natural Resource Defense Council and snapping camera phones. But Shine a Light is helmed by Martin Scorsese
-- the man behind Goodfellas and Raging Bull -- shouldn't it push the boundaries set by Charlotte Zwerin and the Maysles brothers nearly 40 years ago? It should, but Scorsese has always had a cinematic hard-on for the Rolling Stones, and the result is a personal, biased love letter to the Stones signed with love by Marty.
When the Stones take the stage at New York City's Beacon Theater, it's frightening -- their age truly shows on film. As giants on the silver screen, we have a front row seat for an exhibition of frail bodies moving in ways that only young men should move. As Mick Jagger
belts out songs of youthful rebellion and sexual frustration, he still does the same androgynous dances of yesteryear. Yet, this off-putting display of aged youth is clearly a place of sentiment for Scorsese, whose camera lingers with love. Article continues below
That's not to say that the film is entirely a concert video, it is broken up by archival footage of the band -- comprised mostly old interviews. When Jagger, Richards and the crew aren't on stage shaking the skin hanging off their bones, their younger selves are making fools of themselves off stage -- displaying their naïveté at the end of a journalist's camera. While this might have been a point to show some sort of retrospective contrast to the geriatric Stones still rocking today, it merely perpetuates the idea that nothing has changed other than the Stones' bodies -- they are the oldest bunch of lovable 16-year-olds rock and roll has ever seen.
But there is one clear area where both the Stones and Scorsese have changed. Not only do the Stones alter their lyrics, taking out the more risqué lines of "Some Girls" and "Sympathy for the Devil," but, for whatever reason, Scorsese takes it upon himself to censor Jagger by removing several of his dropped F-bombs. The fact that several swears still slip through is even more maddening, as if Scorsese is putting his PG-13 rating on stage with the Stones. Rock and roll isn't rated PG-13. But Shine a Light provides a truncated, Wal-Mart version of the Rolling Stones that's as acceptable as the Pirates of the Caribbean pin on Keith Richard
Sentimentality and nostalgia might fill the gaps for aging Stones fans, but for the rest of us, it's a missed opportunity for a reflection on the times and the unstoppable Stones. Gimme Shelter defined a change in a generation, but Shine a Light inadvertently defines our time of political correctness and accessibility through censorship. Perhaps the only insight we have into the post-2000 Rolling Stones is when Scorsese's camera swings into the drum set -- focused on drummer Charlie Watts
-- and he unleashes a tiring sigh not more than three songs into the set. It's the only moment of weakness, of age, of reality. The rest is rock and roll that's sanitized for the whole family.