Still rockin'

They are in their mid-60s, yet the Rolling Stones still pack enormous punch as a live band.

The DVD Shine a Light documents a concert in a relatively small venue (New York’s Beacon Theatre) at the tail end of the Stones’ A Bigger Bang tour, by which point the band itself was older than I am—their 40th anniversary tour now seems a distant memory.

It’s filmed by director Martin Scorsese and a host of simultaneous cameramen, so it’s filled with vibrant and stylish images; for me, it’s a better account of the Stones live than Four Flicks, which celebrated the tour of the aforementioned anniversary.

One could perhaps have done with a bit less of the introductory material in which the Stones gamely shake hands and make small talk with members of the extended Clinton family (the ex-president of the US is using this concert as some kind of fund-raiser), and the insertions of old footage from the distant past is occasionally awkward—why should one of Keith Richards’s two songs be interrupted, when no other songs were?

That said, this is a really fine concert movie. Jack Black and Christina Aguilera are brought on to add some fresh spice to the Stones’ mix, but quite frankly they don’t need it—Aguilera looks silly, fake and callow beside Mick Jagger. It’s like he’s teaching his granddaughter to suck eggs.


I’m Not There
Todd Haynes, who made Velvet Goldmine (as well as Far from Heaven), takes on another object of his musical fascination: Bob Dylan. Appropriately, he fractures his portrait into several pieces and gives them eccentric imaginative life. Among the fragments are a genius-child folk singer, an amphetamine-driven rock star on tour, a Rimbaud under interrogation, a marriage falling apart or a countryish character who seems to actually be inhabiting a Dylan song. It’s a mind-teasing mosaic, with many excellent reinterpretations of famous songs forming a soundtrack to die for. (Why the DVD cover doesn’t advertise the stars is a mystery—Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere and Heath Ledger in the same film ought to count for something.)

Michael Moore takes on the American medical-insurance industry, a giant corporate scam that costs individuals very dearly if they want to preserve health and life. This is capitalism run riot and governmental responsibility evaded. Moore focuses on a group of people whose health was compromised by rescue work on and after 9/11; none have been given state medical support. He compares the Americans’ plight to that of countries such as France and Britain where the state supplies free medical care, and the comparison doesn’t make the US look good. If you’re going there, for heaven’s sake don’t get ill.

This Bollywood production looks like it has borrowed back from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge a whole lot of ideas Luhrmann took from Bollywood movies in the first place. It all takes place on an obvious set, with neon glowing in the background—it even has a moulin! You can’t take any of it seriously for an instant, or even bother to work out what’s happening in the romance, but at least the male lead gets his shirt off for one number—and then, amazingly, falls asleep atop a grand piano. Even more amazingly, this is apparently based on a story by Dostoevsky.

Dan in Real Life
Widower with three daughters finds new love—if the daughters don’t get in the way. Overly cute and deeply sentimental.

New York party disrupted by appearance of city-destroying monster. As an update of Godzilla, filmed as if on video by desperate people on the run, it is effective enough, and not over-long.

One Missed Call
Yet another American remake of a Japanese horror movie, into which it inserts the usual clichés. This it doesn’t do too badly, maintaining some decent suspense.

The Legend of the Shadowless Sword
In this Korean martial-arts flick, a swordfighter babe saves the kingdom. A touch of nationalistic ideology creeps in, à la the Chinese Hero, which is clearly the kind of film this wants to be. Can’t quite get it together, though.

American Crude
Reasonably amusing black comedy in which everything goes wrong on the stag night of a man about to be married. I liked the transvestite most.

Nim’s Island
Tedious adventure for children.

Pregnancy, abortion, romance: a volatile mix for this Mexican drama. Some found it charming, others found unspeakably syrupy.

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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