Saturday, May 03, 2008

Top 5: Concert Movies

Martin Scorsese's Shine a Light was clearly a lark for the director, a chance to capture a band that has so deeply influenced his films in concert, and it shines with the infectious enthusiasm of a true fan. It's a lot of fun if you like the Rolling Stones (who, even in their sixties, rock harder than most mainstream acts less than half their age), perfectly shot by a superteam of cinematographers and set in an intimate venue that smartly sidesteps most of the off-putting bloat of a contemporary Stones tour (suspiciously young, photogenic audience aside). If the critical response has been a bit muted, it's largely because Scorsese and the Stones are competing against their own definitive contributions to the concert movie genre, the best of which are listed below.

1. The Last Waltz Scorsese's film of The Band's 1976 farewell concert is indelible not only for its impressive roster of guest performances but also as a portrait of the end of an era. In the moments between the unapologetic hedonism and rebellion of the previous years and the self-serving materialism of the decade to come, Scorsese's film plays like the end of a decade-long party - the performers look tired, but there's still the music, and the effect is unforgettably bittersweet.

2. Woodstock
An movie with the proper scale and length for its subject. If The Last Waltz is a eulogy than Woodstock is an orgy - of music, drugs, mud and out-of-control idealism. Overstuffed, overblown and a total blast; they say if you can remember the 60's you weren't there, so it's a good thing someone thought to bring a camera along.

3. Ziggy Startdust and the Spiders From Mars
Bowie's early-70's sci-fi kabuki theatrics as seen through a grainy, handheld point of view. The result is a stunning collision of the deliberate contrivances of glam and director D.A. Pennebaker's verite aesthetic: immediate and wondefully strange.

4. Gimme Shelter
The concert movie as horror film, the Maysles' document of the ill-fated Altamont concert is an unflinching record of the violent implosion of the peace-and-love generation.

5. Stop Making Sense
From the awesome opening performance of "Psycho Killer," Jonathan Demme finds the perfect stripped-down aesthetic to capture the Talking Heads' hyper-conceptual brand of art rock. It's Woodstock for eggheads - when we showed this at Images last year, both old-school Talking Heads fans and those of us who were babies when this was released were dancing in the aisles.


Anonymous said...

Ooooh I adore stop making sense and Ziggy Stardust! I also read a review that said Gimmie Shelter brilliantly showed the phoniness and uselessness of the hippy movement. This was the reviewer's words, not mine.

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