Director/Writer: Brett Morgen
Starring: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Brian Jones
Synopsis: A documentary chronicling The Rolling Stones – from their humble beginnings to their 50th anniversary.
It has been a fantastic year for British institutions – the Royal family celebrated a diamond jubilee and a wedding, Britain swept the board at the Olympics, and James Bond turned 50. Aside the televised and cinematic commemorations, the music of The Rolling Stones floated through the air waves of countless radio stations in light of their 50th anniversary. The Greatest Rock and Roll Band are back and to honour their decades of hits, a come-back was enthusiastically announced and a new documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, has been made to tell their story.
Documentaries on The Rolling Stones are a dime a dozen yet Crossfire Hurricane boasts the exclusive productive partnership of each member (discounting the late Brian Jones). The headline treatment of Jagger, Richards, Watts, Wood, Wyman and Taylor’s input appears like a salacious pull for this film, however, the audio-only interviews are disappointingly infrequent and only moderately insightful. To have each Stones member giving their two cents about their time in the band should warrant near-interrogative questioning from Morgen. Alas, the director conducts his Q&As with a distinct lack of fervour; he rarely probes into the thoughts of the rock stars, leaving you with nothing new to reflect upon.
Fans of the Stones can watch Crossfire Hurricane and see new behind-the-scene footage, but learn nothing new beyond that. The said footage has been closeted for good reasons, mainly due to the tawdry quality of it. The remaining scenes are recycled videos and newsreels seen dozens of times – all suffocating what should be introspective interviews. Many television and radio programmes from this year, that have told the same story, utilized the significant Gimme Shelter recordings along with the same snippets from infamous concerts, making this documentary insufficiently original. On occasion, Crossfire Hurricane gladly gives you information repressed up until now (quick notes on their “exile”, testimony from Charlie that he follows Keith’s lead guitar, and confessions about relationships over the years) though these are few and fleeting.
Every member of The Rolling Stones has (and had) an electric personality that deserves attention. Brian Jones, in particular, had such a sadly short life – most of it spent in The Stones – and a memorable personality that many want to learn more about. Crossfire Hurricane’s main strength is talking about Jones at some length, with additional remembrances from the band. Keith’s recollections are beautifully illustrated by personal photographs showing the two laughing and joking around, highlighting the brotherhood of the band with tremendous poignancy. Despite Morgen favouring TV and tour clips instead of explorative interviewing, the documentary still has the ability to instil a sense of adulation and respect for The Stones – Jones’ quasi-eulogy certainly helps in this regard.
With half a century of stories, Brett Morgen foolishly dwindled down the extensive history of The Rolling Stones to a 111 minute documentary. Had this material been in the hands of someone like Martin Scorsese (a huge fan of The Stones and director of previous documentary/live gig Shine a Light), and perhaps broken up into two or three parts, this would constitute as the ultimate chronicle of the band. Ronnie Wood – a key member since 1975 – is only given scraps of screen-time to tell us about his part. Furthermore, post-1975 is barely spoken about, reminding you that Crossfire Hurricane should have had the subtitle “Part 1” attached to the project title.
By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms