Thursday, October 18, 2012

London Film Fest 2012 Day 9 - CROSSFIRE HURRICANE

The Stones then...

CROSSFIRE HURRICANE is about as good a rock documentary as one could expect from self-produced hagiography.  Commissioned and produced by Mick Jagger to mark the Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary, the movie is a fairly straightforward edit of vintage clips showing the Stones rise to fame, narrated by interviews with the current band-members.  They don't go into their private lives, or their finances (much) and there are no other talking heads to contextualise the skill (or otherwise) in their music.  Indeed, the only comment on actual virtuosity come from Bill Wyman admitting that Charlie Watts plays behind the beat rather than leading the band, and Keith Richards praising his fellow guitarists with a single line.  There's no-one to tell you why the sound works, which Blues artists influenced the band, and who they have in turn they influenced.  The result is a strangely anaemic documentary that skates on the surface of the Stones history.  Lots of great concert footage but no real honesty, except regarding drug-taking.  On three key events - the sacking and death of Brian Jones and Altamont - the Stones give themselves all too easy a ride, and director Brett Morgan (absent from the film in terms of voice-over or heard questions) doesn't want to push them.  

For instance, in the episode of Brian Jones, they don't admit that they didn't actually try to help him, or talk about the impact of Richards walking off with Jones' girlfriend, and sacking him from the band.  Things just don't add up. If Brian was sacked because he was drug-addled and unproductive, why did they put up with Keith in the South of France, when as Wyman admits, he turned what should have taken 2 hours to record a song into 2 weeks?  The truth is, it wasn't the drugs.  Richards could get away with it because he was half of the song-writing combo. I guess people who really want some insight on what went down can check out the former London Film Fest film STONED, which explores that episode in some depth.

The upshot is that while CROSSFIRE HURRICANE will be a must-watch for hardcore Stones fans, it doesn't have much to offer people who want something more than communal adulation.  I couldn't help but contrast this piece of self-PR with the stunningly good rock doc BEWARE OF MR BAKER, also showing in this Festival. That was a gnarly, energetic, insightful  doc about Ginger Baker, legendary drummer for  Cream and Blind Faith. Both in terms of musical significance and cinematic accomplishment, that is by far the superior film.

....and now. [Insert obligatory exclamation of wonder that Richards is still alive.]

CROSSFIRE HURRICANE is an HBO film and will air in the USA on Nov 15th.

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