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Stones in Exile -- Film Review

Stones in Exile

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CANNES -- Torn and frayed in Keith Richards' villa in the South of France, the Rolling Stones gutted out what now is considered their master album, "Exile on Main Street." Fleeing England's Tax Man (93% income tax) and blistered by a financial meltdown via previous management, the Stones in 1971 also were saddled with topping the success of their recent hit albums "Let It Bleed" and "Sticky Fingers," both packed with ripping singles.

Under the astute direction of Stephen Kijak, who was a ripe 1-year-old at the time, "Stones in Exile" vividly re-creates the professional circumstances as well as the emotional mind-set of the band at the time. Mixing photographs, news footage, cuts from a Nashville concert and the final mixing in Los Angeles at a crusty Sunset Boulevard studio, as well as interviews with such post-Stones Age fans as Sheryl Crow and Benicio Del Toro, the documentary lays down a pulsating take on summer of '71.

 

When one is holed up at Keith Richards', it admittedly is not akin to summer camp: The drugs flowed and the women would come and go; there was an 8-year-old drug procurer, as well as "Fat Jacques," the junkie cook. Although such a menagerie appeared mad from the outside, there was a satanic majesty about the band's passion and hard-mindedness. What might have been dizzying distractions for anyone else were curdled into musical inspiration by the Stones.

A semblance of a soundstage was set up in the basement for the Stones and their extended family, by now rimmed with such musicians as Bobby Keys and an impressionable Mick Taylor in the Brian Jones slot. The joint would start ripping usually around midnight and end, well, whenever Keith would pass out.

Of course, there were the relationship gyrations: That summer, Mick Jagger would marry a pregnant Bianca in St. Tropez, and Keith was carrying on heavily with Brian's ex, Swedish sexpot Anita Pallenberg.

The musical world thought the Stones were having a nervous breakdown; rather, they were breaking it down, going back to their basic loves: soul, country and R&B. As their midnight rambles jell, we see the band begin to kick in: Keith lays down snatches of lead lines, and Mick catches bits of chaos and spins it into hard, wistful lyric.

The album cuts bespeak their back-to-basics thrust, from the country "Sweet Virginia" to the bluesy, soulful "Shine a Light." Now, nearly 40 years after that summer of drugs and discontent, "Stones in Exile" sets the gospel about what really transpired and how the Stones turned madness into music.

Venue: Festival de Cannes -- Directors Fortnight
Production: Passion Pictures
Director: Stephen Kijak
Producers: John Battsek, Victoria Pearman
Executive producers: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts
Director of photography: Grant Gee
Editor: Ben Stark
Production designer: Erik Rehl
No rating, 61 minutes