"In 1971," begins Melissa Anderson for Artforum, "about twenty miles northeast of Cannes, the Rolling Stones began recording their first double album, Exile on Main Street, in the basement of Nellcôte, Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg's rented mansion in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Thirty-nine years later, Mick Jagger returned to another Côte d'Azur subterranean cave — the theater in the bowels of the Palais Stéphanie — to welcome the audience (many of whom had stood in line for ninety minutes or more for an hour-long documentary) to Stones in Exile, presented as a special screening in the Directors' Fortnight."
"Hundreds of photographers and onlookers blocked the street near the theater, proving once again that rock stars are bigger than movie stars," notes Charles Ealy in the Austin Movie Blog.
"Out of their chaotic personal and professional lives," writes Andrew O'Hehir, "the Stones somehow created a murky, layered, two-disc masterpiece that embraced Delta blues, hillbilly-style country music, R&B, soul music, 50s-style rock 'n' roll and any number of other elements. It sounded like a record that had been left under a couch in Memphis, not one made by a bunch of rich English guys at their Côte d'Azur hideaway. (Personally, I love the whole album — but there can never be a day so good or so bad in my life where listening to 'Shine a Light' won't make it better.)... What may be most remarkable in this wistful, moving and, yes, fully rocked-out film is the sense that after spending the last 30 years or more as a multimillion-dollar business focused on the next move, the Rolling Stones are finally considering their place in history." Also in Film Salon, Sam Adams revisits other Stones docs.
The doc is "a less cinematic product than the director's [Stephen Kijak] previous music biopic, Scott Walker, 30th Century Man," finds Lee Marshall in Screen. "It's also one with a parallel marketing agenda which goes some way to explaining the involvement of band members Jagger, Richard and [Charlie] Watts on the production side.... What's lacking is any real dramatic structure or investigative bite. A couple of the interviewees allude to things 'getting really dark and wild' at a certain stage, but although Richards talks openly about his drug habit, the tensions, conflicts and descent into the abyss are disappointingly fudged – as perhaps was only to be expected given the producer/subject overlap."
Duane Byrge in the Hollywood Reporter: "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."
Sean O'Hagan opens his longish piece in the Guardian on the making of the album with a quote nearly every reviewer mentions: "'Mick needs to know what he's going to do tomorrow,' says Richards, his voice slurring into a laugh. 'Me, I'm just happy to wake up and see who's hanging around. Mick's rock, I'm roll.'"
Ben Hoyle interviews Kijak for the London Times, while Kenneth Turan talks with him for the Los Angeles Times, where Randy Lewis meets Richards, Jagger and producer Don Was. Pierre Perrone interviews Richards for the Independent.
Tangentially related, but still: For Rolling Stone, Caryn Ganz talks with Liz Phair about making her response to Exile on Main St, Exile in Guyville.
Grades average 5 or so at Letras de Cine.
Updates, 5/23: "The new reissue both enshrines Exile and questions it," argues Ben Ratliff in the New York Times. "The first disc — a sharper version of the album itself, sounding far better than its last remastering in 1994, with deeper bass and greater detail — strengthens the idea of Exile as an inviolable document, dense and atmospheric and brilliantly post-produced, a thing unto itself. But the second bonus disc blows that idea apart, with new vocal tracks by Mr Jagger over old instrumental tracks of Exile-related provenance, and other material that seems to come from the general era. So now you're getting Exile from two perspectives: first as a finished 18-track entity, a masterpiece, if you want; then as something broader and more amorphous. If I'm reading the signs correctly, these two perspectives have some relation to how Mr Richards and Mr Jagger think about the album."
"To me," writes Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, "the ultimate statement on the genesis of the album comes from Keith Richards, who Ratliff quotes as saying, 'All of the bone and the muscle of the record was done down in that basement.' Stones in Exile isn't a major or definitive documentary (I wish it had been longer), but it lets you live down there with the Stones as they boogied and burned and thrashed their way out of exile."
Martyn Palmer interviews Jagger for the Telegraph.
Quinzaine's got a page and a zillion photos of Mick Jagger. Cannes 2010: Coverage of the coverage index.