Given the hoopla surrounding its world premiere at the London Film Festival last week, only the most jaded of fans would begrudge the ageing rockers revisiting their story for the umpteenth time on screen.
As a point of difference, there are fresh interviews with Stones past and present – including former bassist Bill Wyman (credited as a historical consultant) and one-time axe man Mick Taylor. Although, since the Stones themselves are producing, these refreshingly candid narrative threads are kept as audio devices only. So, rather than see the grizzled veterans as they are today, their glory days, as the flag-bearers of the anti-establishment, are visually recounted, through a blizzard of live performance footage, newsreels and, at one point, Channel Nine’s Brian Henderson passing comment on the former bad boys of rock.
For the uninitiated, this latest trawl through the archives – The Kid Stays In The Picture director, Brett Morgan, had just four months to deliver, apparently – will serve as a revelation. There’s a feast of historical clips, succinctly woven together, to present the Stones half-century, as sanctioned by the men themselves. Wonderfully ragged versions of classics like Streetfighting Man, Sympathy for the Devil, Brown Sugar et al feature prominently. The cultural significance of these post-war musical pioneers is suitably emphasised throughout.
Rabid fans, however, will feel less enthused. Much of the footage will feel familiar, culled from the myriad of Stones docs that have appeared since the 1960s. Disappointingly, nothing post-1982 features, except a nod to the recent-past, via Scorsese’s Shine A Light. The originally planned finale, of the band rehearsing in 2012 for their upcoming anniversary tour, would have been a better fit.
Similarly, none of the Stones’ legion of wives and partners, past and present, feature. And the only controversies covered are the illegal drug busts that helped turn them into folk heroes.
Still, there’s plenty here to enjoy: from Bill Wyman’s infamously astute observations on teenage girls to Sir Mick’s lament that "you can't be young forever, I suppose". Brian Jones’ death and the deadly atmosphere at Altamont are revisited with fresh insight, as is Mick Taylor’s decision for quitting the band in 1974. The mania of the 1960s is vividly revisited, too, and US talk show host Dick Cavett’s typically wry backstage banter with Jagger in 1972 is a hoot.
The Stones themselves showed no signs of wanting to retire at last week’s red-carpet affair in London’s Leicester Square, suggesting there’ll be more on film in the years ahead. For now, this provides both a marketing teaser for the tour (and the greatest hits package), and a timely reminder of why the world still can’t get enough of the English grammar-school boys who tore around the world for 20 years before becoming, as Jagger himself points out, a national treasure.
Nothing terribly new from Mick, Keith and co, but great fun, all the same. Morgan has assembled a hugely enjoyable, tightly edited journey through the Stones’ creative heyday. A great introduction, then, for the uninitiated.