Thursday, March 30, 2006
, Brian Jones is credited as being the founder of the groundbreaking British rock band the Rolling Stones in the early 1960s. Yet the film only hints at the creativity and experimentation that Jones brought to the rock scene. The film, likeRay
andWalk the Line
, seems more interested in the sensational elements of Jones' life like the drug use, drinking, diva behavior and sexual escapades.
The inspiration, in part, for the film was the deathbed revelation of Frank Thorogood, a crew foreman working for Jones, that he had been the one to cause Jones' death (no official recording of the confession was ever taken, though). Producer-turned-director Stephen Woolley cites several sources as the basis for his film, which he designs as a kind of collage of Jones' life. The film starts with a great black and white sequence of a bluesy performance by the Stones at a club early on in their careers. Then the film jumps to Jones floating dead in his pool. A rapid montage of images'Jones' life flashing before his eyes, perhaps'gives us a quick summary of everything we're about to see. The chronology of Jones' life gets shuffled about as Woolley tries to create a film that reflects the mood and style of the sixties. The film seems heavily influenced by Nicholas Roeg's Performance , which starred the Stones' Mick Jagger as a rock star playing mind games with a mobster seeking refuge. Both films strive for a visual style that conveys the free flowing, stream of consciousness of a drug induced state. Roeg succeeds far better than Woolley but the visual style of Woolley's film is by far his film's best feature. Woolley's mix of film stocks and disjointed editing style do capture a certain sixties quality that's appealing. Unfortunately, he never really lets us get to know Jones. The rock star remains an aloof figure and something of a cliche.
Woolley apparently made the film without the approval or participation of the Stones who are still alive. This means that the Stones as characters are rather peripheral and none of the Mick Jagger-Keith Richards songs could be used in the film. Woolley gets around the music usage with ease and loads his soundtrack with some great cuts from the sixties. But he fares less well in getting around the minimal presence of the Stones as characters in the film. We want to see how Jones (played by Leo Gregory) interacts with Jagger, Richards and Charlie Watts. We want to know something of their creative collaboration. But because Woolley seems hindered in showing this relationship, he has to make excuses for not showing such scenes. So now Jones is depicted as someone who was rarely at recording sessions, didn't go on tour with the band, and seems to live a loner's existence at his mansion. While there are elements of the truth in here, we completely miss out on the creative input he had on the band.
Stoned (unrated but for mature audiences) serves up a more creative musical biography approach than either Ray or Walk the Line , yet it still falls far short of offering any insight into the private life of a public person. He shows us an icon and only hints at the human being.
Companion viewing: Performance, Sympathy for the Devil, Degree of Murder (the film that Jones is shown creating a score for in Stoned ) -----