CROSSFIRE HURRICANE FIRST NIGHT
Leicester Square Odeon – London Film Festival
I now understand why celebs turn up at premieres. There is something quite intoxicating about sashaying down the red-carpet, paparazzi trying to work out whether you’re worth a snap, young ladies with clipboards checking to see whether you’re on their list – it’s all great fun. Tonight’s celeb turn-out was strictly Z- list – Anthea Turner and Liam Gallagher. Lauren Laverne was doing the red carpet interviews and a very blonde, fluffy job she made of it.
A pleasant surprise waited us inside, posh water, popcorn and Green & Black’s on our seats plus they were selling booze. And then onstage the stars of the show. First director Brett Morgen and then Jagger, Watts, Wood, Richards and (nice touch) Wyman, although no Mick Taylor who I saw at the end. Jagger and Morgen both made lucid introductions to the film, with Jagger apologising for some of the fashions we were about to see (OK until about 1975 by my estimation, but those lime-green frills were a spectacular fall from grace)
So on with the show. Brett Morgen made it very clear from the outset that the film is his personal statement which makes no attempt at a balanced historical perspective of the bands entire career. Instead the focus is on the crazed amphetamine rush of the Brian Jones and Mick Taylor eras, which by most Stones fans estimation is when they did their best work. This is a brave move, but one that pays off. Already there are complaints that the film ends too abruptly, with only a very cursory canter through the Ronnie Wood / stadium era. I suspect that Morgen feels there is not much to say post ‘74 – got rich, played ever bigger gigs, released a few decent singles. Jagger mentions that Woods presence made the band more fun and less dangerous: for some of us, that is the problem. Ironically when asked about the movie on the red carpet Ronnie said he hoped he would appear before the end. Sorry Ronnie.
Reservations. There is too much Jagger but given he is credited as co-producer and has tended to do the lion share of the Stones media appearances this may have been unavoidable. Ian Stewart only appears assisting young ladies offstage: his lack of credit is unforgiveable. The relentless focus on the main protagonists means that key muses such as Marianne Faithful and Anita Pallenberg plus key musicians such as Bobby Keyes and Nicky Hopkins get no mention. Morgen plays fast and loose with historical accuracy. He needs footage of the band looking glum to accompany a recent interview about the death of Brian Jones. Problem: no-one was filming at Olympic studios the night it happened. Solution: use the Maylses’ footage from Gimme Shelter of Richards, Jagger and Watts. Does it matter? It is Morgen using a lie to tell a greater truth. The contemporary interviews add little. Mick Taylor now claims he left the Stones because of his heroin habit (rather than disputes over songwriting or creative differences). Jagger admits they treated Jones badly and regrets the way they sacked him, albeit with the tone of a politician expressing his disappointment about a policy which hasn’t worked.
Positives. Morgen’s sources are really good. Yes, we have already seen the footage from the TAMI show, Gimme Shelter, The Dick Cavett Show, One Plus One. C*cksuck*r Blues , NME Poll Winners show, Ladies & Gentlemen and Knebworth. However the sound and picture quality here is first rate, plus there are out-takes being used for the first time. On the basis of the teaser footage used here, the re-release of Peter Whitehead’s Charlie Is My Darling will be fabulous. The way the film cuts rapidly between subjects creates a claustrophobic feeling of something out of control, perfectly in keeping with the whirlwind early touring years. However it means there are performance clips I would like to see on their own, all the way through – I hope the DVD release makes this possible. We see most of the voodoo Jumping Jack Flash promo but only tantalising glimpses of Let’s Spend The Night Together (from Sunday Night At The London Palladium? Brian Jones on piano). With 25 x 5 unaccountably unavailable on DVD it is about time all the Stones promo films and TV appearances were brought together, legally and in good quality
Should you see it? If you are even a casual Stones fan, absolutely. If you are Ronnie Wood’s mum or you think they peaked artistically as a stadium band in the 80’s and 90s you’re probably better off waiting ‘til BBC2 shows it next month. I’ll be watching – Crossfire Hurricane is dense movie with lots to see.