Titles by the great Pablo Ferro.
Hal Ashby’s LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER, a Stones concert film, suffers a bit from being ’80s product, a period probably nobody would say was the Rolling Stones’ finest. When I see old footage of Mick et al on Ready Steady Go, the air of danger and rebellion is so strong, the message is so clear — I can hardly imagine how transgressive they must have seemed. Conversely, in Scorsese’s SHINE A LIGHT, the message is “We’re still here. We do this.” But what is the meaning of this 1982 performance I see, with Mick’s leggings and jacket and sock-filled crotch bulge and Keith’s eyeshadow and fag and all the balloons?
Never mind. The arrangement of the songs, slathered in saxophone, isn’t too great either, though one can’t fault the marathon-like energy the band apply to them.
The film’s biggest filmic plus is that it’s an open-air stadium concert that starts in the last minutes of daylight and progresses into night, allowing for an ever-changing quality of light that creates a visual progression — something I believe all concert movies need. The masterpiece of the genre, Jonathan Demme’s STOP MAKING SENSE, achieved this by having the Talking Heads emerge gradually, one by one, building from David Byrne solo with guitar and drum track on a tape deck, to the full quartet plus backing musicians and backing vocalists — plus an elaborate and ever-changing lighting plan. Almost everything else I’ve seen throws the kitchen sink in right away, pyrotechnics and lights and inflatable pigs and dancing girls and diminishing returns.
Here, the diurnal structure helps, as do the nice colours, ’80s pastels of course but deepening as the sunlight goes orange then fades.
Ashby also is happy to throw away the first number on longshots, robbing us of Mick’s facial exertions and just showing off the remarkable space, a telefoto face-scape, an oscillating pointillist constellation of flesh dots, a great wall of the many-headed arrayed before us, spread flat on the screen by long lens distortion.
I want to say that Mick Jagger’s face is a panopticon. In the sense that a person standing anywhere on it would be able to perceive every other feature. Perched on the cro-magnon brow, he could observe the craggy gully of the mouth, blue in the distance, whereas from the promontory of a lip, he could gaze into those nasal caverns, on to the deep-shadowed hollows of the cheeks, the shimmering, glassy eyeballs, and the steep incline of the forehead, vanishing in a forest of sweaty locks.