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Shine A Light - Martin Scorsese & The Rolling Stones

Shine A Light

Feature by Jack Foley

MARTIN Scorsese’s latest film, Shine A Light, is a tribute to the band that have most influenced his life and career. It’s released on DVD by Twentieth Century Fox on Monday, November 3, 2008.

“When it comes to this band,” smiles Scorsese, “I’ve been recoding them for over thirty years; they’ve had such an impact on my films.”

Indeed, the Rolling Stones feature in four of Scorsese’s finest films… And here’s how…

MEAN STREETS (1973)

Track: Jumpin’ Jack Flash

In Tony’s bar, Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is praying for forgiveness. Instead, he’s greeted by Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), in slow motion, striding through the door Heather Weintraub on one arm and Sarah Klein on the other. Uber-critic Pauline Kael once described Mean Streets as “hallucinatory, operatic, and dizzyingly sensual”. She was no doubt thinking of this scene when writing those words.

Track: Tell Me

Tell Me plays during Charlie’s crowd-pleasing antics with Diane, the stripper whose overpowering allure sears another scar onto his conscience. In fact, Tell Me, and Jumpin’ Jack Flash ring out one after another within the film’s first ten minutes.

GOODFELLAS (1990)

Track: Gimme Shelter

Undoubtedly one of Scorsese’s favourite tracks, Gimme Shelter appears in no fewer than three of his films. In Goodfellas and Casino, the Stones classic plays once things start to go wrong, in each movie a little further than halfway through, rattling out here as Henry (Ray Liotta) chops up cocaine at his girlfriend’s place.

Track: Monkey Man

This Stones number actually gets two outings in Goodfellas, as Henry’s coke-infused helicopter paranoia goes into overdrive. The track plays first when the babysitter is introduced and Henry begins to juggle his family, girlfriend and lots of cocaine, and then again when Henry and wife Karen (Lorraine Bracco) stash guns in her mom’s garbage can.

Track: Memo from Turner

As Henry’s paranoia explodes, Scorsese embarks on his montage masterpiece skipping through Monkey Man and Memo From Turner (After Henry’s failed bid to sell the silencer’s to De Niro’s Jimmy), mixing in with snatches of the Who, Muddy Waters and George Harrison, these jarring excerpts giving a frantic jagged heartbeat to the anti-hero’s disastrous day.

CASINO (1995)

Track: Gimme Shelter

Here Scorsese pays homage to the Maysles and their seminal Stones documentary (also titled Gimme Shelter), when the song plays as the cops kill a man holding a sandwich. The shot is rewound and we zoom in on the sandwich, exactly like the Maysles did when capturing the fan’s murder on their infamous footage of a fan’s murder (freezing on the man in the green suit holding the gun, and the Hell’s Angel with the knife).

Track: Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?

This the only song Scorsese uses in its entirety, its riff belting out as Joe Pesci’s Nicky is barred from all the casinos in Vegas. Over the course of the song’s seven minutes, we can her Nicky knockin’, trying to get back into Vegas, and he does so, on his own terms even superceding his buddy, Ace (De Niro). It’s a masterful piece of editing, moving to the rhythms of the song.

Track: Heart of Stone

In a picture that may feature Scorsese’s most astounding use of music, nothing proves as stylish as his jaw-dropping introduction of Sharon Stone’s rocks-and-bucks obsessed Ginger, trading kisses for cash to the apt accompaniment of the Stones’ Heart Of Stone.

Track: Long Long While

The track plays through a cozy moment, as Ace arrives to meet Nicky in a bar, the song building as the tension ratchets up. When the foolish punter standing nearby invites Ace to stick a pen up his ass, Nicky introduces said writing implement to the man’s jugular, just as the song erupts. A raucous soundtrack to a grisly moment.

Track: Satisfaction

It’s actually American New Wave band Devo playing the classic Stones track, and it pops up not longer after Nicky’s nasty knifing scene, forming a darkly amusing audio backdrop to Ace getting really rather angry with his adulterous, drug-addled wife.

Track: Sweet Virginia

It’s back to the Stones once more, as Sweet Virgina chimes through the scene in which Ace upsets the local cowboy types by ejecting a red-necked slob from his casino, head-first.

THE DEPARTED (2006)

Track: Gimme Shelter

It’s third time and still plucky as Scorsese again returns to one of all-time favourites, using it during the opening moments, as Jack Nicholson’s fiendish Mr. Costello slithers from the Boston shadows. “That film depicts a moral ground zero,” says Scorsese. “You don’t know where anybody stands, nobody seems to be telling the truth and what the hell is truth anyway? Gimme Shelter was the only thing that seemed to work.”

Track: Let it Loose

By far and away the finest track on the soundtrack (Gimme Shelter is omitted from the CD) this is a surprisingly affecting and soulful number from one of the band’s best albums, 1972’s Exile on Main Street. In the film, it underscores of Costello’s first encounter with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan, when he kindly smashes his broken arm.

Read our review of Shine A Light