Monday, July 5, 2010

DVD Review: The Rolling Stones: Rare and Unseen

Text © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen
Images from the Internet

The Rolling Stones: Rare and Unseen
Wienerworld Presentations, 2010
64 minutes, USD $14.95

As is usual with this series, there is only action and dialog, with no music. However, there is a lot going on all the time. Less linear than the one on John Lennon, jumping back and forth in both time and topic, it still remains as relatively comprehensive over the career of the band.

Again, there is nothing about the lads before the band’s formation, nor is there even much about how they got together in the first place, but that’s to be expected. Where it does start is with a humorous quote from Mick Jagger very early on after the band had been together for a couple of years. During a television interview, he pensively states (and this is the opening line of the documentary): “I’ve never thought I’d be doing it for two years even; we’re probably set up for another year.”

The first major clip shown is of Mick being interviewed by Jools Holland (of the band Squeeze) on his The Tube show. This is just the first of many interviews presented, both as individuals and as a group, such as the hilarious questions asked by Ulster Television’s The South Bank Show, where the reporter asks questions about how much money they’ve made and which band is better, the Stones or the Beatles.

There are plenty of shots of the band playing, but always with no music, either overlaid by the sound of radio coverage or a split screen with the band talking on television. In the place of a narrator, there are blue rectangular boxes on the bottom of the screen, filling in what the viewer is looking at, sometimes quite humorously. As for the framework, there seems to be very little thought to chronology given to the clips, sort of like driving a familiar road paying no attention to the yellow line down the center. There are also few temporal descriptors, so events are not well explained or placed in context of the timeline of the band. While this is sometimes frustrating, it can also be said that most die-hard fans know the facts, and are more interested in the rare clips than have the screen filled with redundant (to them) text.

An example of this is the amusing press conference in Russia during the Bridges to Babylon tour in 1998, where it is obvious there is a language barrier that is both funny, and somewhat frustrating to the participants. Another interesting interview is one taken from a 1983 television program where Mick and director Julian Temple are taken to task for the violence in their music video “Undercover of the Night.”

A theme throughout, especially from their early period, is how often the Stones are asked questions on how they compare themselves to the Beatles. They are usually quite diplomatic about it, though it’s obvious Mick is drolly annoyed. Mick, however, is not the only one interviewed, and in fact there is an interesting one-camera Q&A outside a studio with Bill Wyman on the 10th anniversary of his being in the band. He is quite frank and sharp.

There are few details given about the big drug bust of the band, and includes all the same footage one usually sees of them entering and exiting the courthouse both after the arrest itself, the trial, and after the rap-on-the-wrist plea bargain. This is the only time one gets to see Maryanne Faithful and Anita Pallenberg, who go undefined and unexplained. There is, however, a bit more footage of Mick’s marriage to Bianca in 1971 in St. Tropez, where we get to hear Mick speak French. In fact, it’s kind of cool to watch Mick’s accent change over the years, as he starts to drop the faux working class cockney tinge he applied early on.

Speaking of drug busts, there is some coverage of their 1977 Canadian arrest, including the press conference, where Keith Richards looks completely stoned (pun intended).

Jeri Hall makes a very brief (and again, unexplained) appearance at the 2000 opening of the Mick Jagger Centre. Amazingly, there is very little on Brian Jones here, but more focus is placed on some of the other members of the band one usually does not get to see, such as the abovementioned Wyman interview and his live, on-camera resignation from the band in 1993, and some footage of Ronnie Wood’s art show opening at the Drury Lane Theatre.

But the main focus remains on Mick Jagger, with the conclusion of this DVD focusing on Mick’s knighthood, and the band showing up for the opening of Martin Scorcese’s concert film about the Rolling Stones, Shine a Light, which premiered in Berlin in 2008.

While this DVD is somewhat of a mess as far as linearity, the footage shown is accurately described as rare and unseen. I do recommend this more for those somewhat familiar with the band’s history to place the context of the footage, but overall it was an enjoyable ride through the Rolling Stones’ public psyches.

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