'Shine a Light' and 'Chapter 27' prove again how '60s culture
continues to haunt us
By Andy Klein
One of Martin Scor- sese's first big credits was as editor/assistant
director on Michael Wadleigh's immeasurably influential 1970
Woodstock. Near the end of the same decade Scorsese made The Last
Waltz, one of the best concert films. So he might seem a great choice
to record a Rolling Stones concert.
In a sense, he's too great a choice. That is, Shine a Light -- shot
at two 2006 shows in New York and edited together as one -- may (or
may not) be a first-rate picture of the Stones onstage in their
sixties; but there's not much here that exploits Scorsese's
personality or greatest skills. How much different would it have been
with, say, Steve Binder (The T.A.M.I. Show) or Tony Mitchell (Roy
Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night) calling the shots?
Believe me, I'm not knocking those guys: The two titles cited are
among the best concert movies ever made. But Scorsese's career brings
with it a different set of expectations. Of his three largest music
projects in the past, both HBO's The Blues (2003) and No Direction
Home: Bob Dylan (2005) had broad canvasses and room for historical
depth, and The Last Waltz (1978) documented a poignant event in the
death of a great group.
The first few minutes of Shine a Light are wonderfully droll -- a
string of confused pre-concert meetings and phone calls, as Scorsese
deals with lights and cameramen while desperately trying to get
Jagger to firm up the set list. The director, as always, is a great
onscreen presence, and these scenes could almost be outtakes from
This Is Spinal Tap. Bill Clinton shows up to introduce the band at
one of the concerts, so we get the incongruous sight of Keith
Richards sweetly saying "Hello, Dorothy!" to Hillary's 86-year-old
mom. (One can only hope that Hillary prepared her for some of the
lyrics she was about to hear.)
However, once the show kicks off with "Jumpin' Jack Flash," we are
almost entirely on Really Well Shot Historical Record of Concert
turf. A half-dozen times,
Scorsese inserts cleverly chosen interview clips, mostly from the
early days, which gives us a chance to marvel at how little Mick has
changed and how much Keith has.
An oft-broken rule of the genre is that one shouldn't cut away in the
middle of a song to insert some talk, no matter how resonant.
Scorsese does it only once ... in the least bothersome spot: Mick
leaves the stage for several minutes -- for a costume change and,
hopefully, a couple of bottles of Gatorade -- while Keith steps up to
the mike for acoustic versions of "You Got the Silver" and
"Connection." Keith's performance of the second tune isn't
particularly good, and the cutaway is a bit of a relief.
"Okay," you may be impatiently muttering at this point, "we get it:
This a Rolling Stones concert film more than it's a
Scorsese film. So how's the friggin' show?"
Pretty damned good, actually. After 45 years, 24 studio albums, and
roughly 300 songs, the problem with a Stones set is that somebody's
notion of an absolutely essential song is going to be missing. In
this case, I'm that somebody, and I can't wrap my brain around the
omission of "Honky Tonk Women."
About two-thirds of the 18 or so selections come from the golden
period that ended with Exile on Main St.: starting with
"Satisfaction" and "As Tears Go By"; through "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and
"Sympathy for the Devil"; and on to "Brown Sugar" and "Tumbling
Dice." Later tunes include "Shattered" and "Start Me Up." Three guest
stars each do a duet with Mick: Jack White shows up for "Loving Cup";
Christina Aguilera for "Live with Me"; and Buddy Guy for Muddy
Waters's "Champagne & Reefer." It's sporting that Mick lets Buddy
sing, given that the latter's voice blows him off the stage.
The sound for most of the show struck me as a little murky, which may
be the result of the venue I saw it in or my aging ears or, most
likely, the denseness of the arrangements. Like the 1991 At the Max,
the film is being released in IMAX theaters (in addition to regular
venues). So, if -- unlike me -- you can watch a 20-foot-tall Mick
quickly whipping back and forth across a too-wide screen without
getting a headache, IMAX might be worth it for better sound.
And whip back and forth Mick does. Make all the jokes you want about
these guys being geezers, but how many 50-year-olds can maintain the
energy level that Jagger displays here for nearly two hours? Long
ago, Richard Belzer described Jagger onstage as looking like "a
rooster on acid." Decades have passed, and the singer has inevitably
evolved: Now he looks like a well-preserved, extraordinarily fit
63-year-old rooster on acid.
There are plenty of other '60s icons still around, but -- thanks to
psycho-asshole Mark David Chapman -- John Lennon is not among them.
For whatever reason, two fictional features have recently been made
about Chapman's stalking and murder of Lennon. A month and a half
ago, Andrew Piddington's The Killing of John Lennon showed up on one
L.A. screen, swept away a week later in a flood of bad reviews and
audience indifference. There is very little reason to imagine -- or
hope -- that its successor, Jarrett Schaefer's Chapter 27, will fare
The title Chapter 27 refers to the notion that Chapman was trying, by
his actions, to write one further scene beyond the last chapter of
his favorite book, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Schaefer
follows Chapman (Jared Leto) from his arrival in New York to the
moment he unloads his gun into one of the most famous people in the
world. Along the way, as he hangs out near the Dakota, Lennon's
apartment house, he has an awkward flirtation with another fan named
Jude (Lindsay Lohan) and some tense encounters with Paul (Judah
Friedlander), the paparazzo who lucks out by snapping a picture of
him getting Lennon's autograph.
It's easy to understand Leto's desire to break out of the pretty-boy
mode he's been consigned to since his days on My So-Called Life. For
Chapter 27, he's even pulled a De Niro -- temporarily gaining 60
pounds and successfully making himself look the very picture of Chapman.
Sadly, he's less well-served by the material than in his last such
outing, Lonely Hearts (2006). He may look just like Chapman; he may
sound just like Chapman; and his mumbled voiceover may perfectly
reflect Chapman's inner world.
The problem is: Who wants to enter that world? Neither Chapman --
still alive in Attica Prison -- nor his inner life is very
interesting, even by the standards of psycho-assholes. Chapman
decided to kill Lennon because he felt like a nonentity; if the film
is anything to go by, he was right. As a result, I was looking at my
watch before the first third of the movie's 84-minute running time had passed.
The only attractions Chapter 27 may exert on potential viewers are
its exploitable casting coups: Leto's transformation, Lohan's
presence (however limited), and -- for trivia freaks -- Lennon being
played by Mark Lindsay Chapman, who was cast as the singer in a 1985
TV movie and then lost the role solely because of his unfortunate name.
Shine a Light. Directed by Martin Scorsese. With Mick Jagger, Keith
Richards, Jack White, Buddy Guy, Christina Aguilera, Bill Clinton,and
Martin Scorsese. Opens Friday citywide.
Chapter 27. Written and directed by Jarrett Schaefer. With Jared
Leto, Lindsay Lohan, Judah Friedlander, and Mark Lindsay Chapman.
Opens Friday at the Nuart.