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Stones in Exile (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 29, 2023


Featuring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Martin Scorsese, Anita Pallenberg, Jimmy Miller, Andy Johns, Dominique Tarlé, Bobby Keys, Sheryl Crow, Jack White,, Don Was, Liz Phair, Jake Weber and Benicio Del Toro.

Directed by Stephen Kijak.

Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. 59 minutes. Not Rated.

In 1972, The Rolling Stones were rich superstars. They had been on the top of the charts for nearly a decade. Their primary competition – The Beatles – had just broken up a couple of years previously. The Stones had finally worked their way out of an unfair first record contract and while they were currently in a bit of a pinch, soon the money was going to come pouring in. However, due to the British tax laws, they had to leave their homes in England just at the time that they were starting work on their first two-record set, a group of songs which has been called their finest work, Exile of Main Street.

While the idea of a 93% income tax is of course obscene, it’s a little bit hard to feel too sorry for a bunch of famous young millionaires living in gorgeous villas in the south of France, surrounded by women, drugs and hangers-on, and recording in a huge villa in the Riviera town Villefranche sur Mer.

Believe me, I’ve stayed in that gorgeous little village and the fact that they got anything other than sightseeing and sunbathing done is a testament to the Stones’ work ethic.

This hour-long documentary gives extraordinary access to the sessions that led to Exile on Main Street. The band, their friends, lovers and collaborators discuss the details of the time spent living in France and working on the recordings – well at least as well as they can, much of the memory is a little hazy due to rampant drug use.

However, I suppose that your interest in this little slice of Stones lore depends somewhat on your feelings about the classic platter that is being dissected here.

Honestly, I personally feel that while the album had some truly great moments, it also had way too much filler. It certainly did not contain many of the band’s legendary singles; the only two tracks that even marginally charted were “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy.” In my opinion, two albums that led up to ExileLet it Bleed and Sticky Fingers – were overall much better records with infinitely more memorable songs.

That said, there is a great deal of fascinating fly on the wall footage of a band at the height of their creative powers. It is fun to see these guys in their prime, working and playing and sightseeing through the South of France (for my part, I would have preferred a little more footage of Villefranche, but that’s me) and eventually flying off to the funkier confines of early 70s Hollywood to finish the project up.

Stones in Exile works quite well as a musical time capsule and a detailed look at an album that – even if you are not the biggest fan of, like me – certainly did become a cultural milestone. The band is forthright and interesting in talking head interviews, though some bookending interviews with an odd assortment of artists who followed in the Stones’ footsteps (including the likes of Sheryl Crow, Jack White of the White Stripes, of the Black Eyed Peas and actor Benicio Del Toro) seem like mostly unnecessary fluff.

However, this may be the one of the most intimate portraits we have gotten of the world’s greatest rock band – particularly during the nether-region between the disillusioning tragedy at Altamont and sell-out a few years later with “It’s Only Rock and Roll” – and for that alone Stones fans should be “Happy.”

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: June 24, 2010.


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