In the tradition of Hollywood directors taking on the task of documenting rock & roll events—like Martin Scorsese with THE LAST WALTZ or Jonathan Demme with STOP MAKING SENSE—Hal Ashby’s LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER is a record of the Rolling Stones’ 1981 U.S. tour. Although it was filmed at just three stops, all large outdoor venues, it beautifully captures the spirit of the shows and the hard work that goes into staging a Stones concert. The Stones themselves don’t break new ground in personal revelations, but they do live up to expectations. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman tend to fade into the background, Keith Richards is otherworldly, and Mick Jagger struts and poses. But Ashby wanted to show the vastness of the enterprise, not just the performers. His use of sweeping helicopter shots of the crowds is balanced by equal attention to the small details of the work of the roadies and technicians. The songs are familiar, recorded in stereo surround sound, and performed with the electric intensity expected of the Rolling Stones, arguably the world’s greatest band. Ashby also opens things up by including a variety of newsreel footage collected over the 20 years the band has been together, some of which, including burning Buddhist monks in Vietnam, still startles, giving a historical feel to an otherwise fairly straightforward concert film. —rottentomatoes.com
Hal Ashby was born the fourth and youngest child in a Mormon household in Ogden, Utah, on September 2, 1929. His father was a dairy farmer. After a rough childhood that included the divorce of his parents, his father’s suicide, his dropping out of high school, getting married and divorced all before he was 19, he decided to leave Utah for California. A Californian employment office found him a printing press job at Universal Studios. Within a few years, he was an assistant film editor at various other studios. One of his pals while at MGM was a young messenger named Jack Nicholson. He moved up to being a full fledged editor on The Loved One (1965) and started editing the films of director Norman Jewison.
A highlight of his film editing career was winning an Oscar for the landmark In the Heat of the Night (1967). Itching to become a director, Jewison gave him a script he was too busy to work on called The Landlord (1970). It became Ashby’s first film as a director. From there… read more