HBO’s ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ Tells Story of The Rolling Stones – Half of It, Anyway
HBO’s new Crossfire Hurricane is a biography and performance compendium of the Rolling Stones, who have gathered no moss for 50 years. This special covers half of it…
Crossfire Hurricane, a full-length nonfiction film premiering Thursday, Nov. 15, at 9 p.m. ET, covers the British group’s raucous beginnings in 1962, as part of the first wave of what would be called the British Invasion of rock music, which premieres, to its large-scale, circus-like American tour of 1981.
That leaves plenty of room for a full-length sequel — but whether a follow-up film is warranted depends on how fervent you are about the Stones, and how willing you are to accept only what they want to serve up, and at their pace.
But look: Bob Dylan, with the first (and, so far, only) Chronicles autobiography, jumped around chronologically and told only the stories he wanted to tell. The Beatles, with Anthology, controlled very tightly both the music and the stories that would be released. The Stones, with this new documentary, follow suit. It’s not the first time they followed the lead of the Beatles and Dylan — which, at least, they admit in Crossfire Hurricane, acknowledging that they deliberately wore the “black hats” after the Beatles had donned the white ones.
Unfortunately, that level of insight is doled out stingily. Fresh comments by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, and former band members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor enliven things, but only aurally. They aren’t photographed or shown as they speak, which makes their new contributions feel more like a DVD audio-commentary extra.
Director Brett Morgen has tackled a larger-than-life celebrity biography before, a decade ago, with HBO’s The Kid Stays in the Picture. That was a fond portrait of Hollywood producer Robert Evans, made both endearing and entertaining because of Evans’ candid stories and the ones shared by his many friends and colleagues over the years, including George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
In Crossfire Hurricane, the Stones, by and large, are more canny than candid, and there isn’t a lot of commentary or analysis from the group’s musical peers.
So what’s left? A limited but quite watchable trip through the Sixties and Seventies.
The early footage, of their club dates and bouts with reporters, has the spirit and wit of A Hard Day’s Night, and shows jumping jack flashes of the anarchy that would erupt into deadly violence at the 1969 Altamont concert as the Sixties (and its idealism) ended.
And the concert footage, providing full-length or otherwise generous in-concert doses of “Satisfaction,” “Tumbling Dice,” “She’s a Rainbow,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Tumbling Dice” and others, explains why the Stones held their own with the best on the charts.
The modern, in-person update is missing. But that was provided, the morning of the movie’s HBO premiere, by NBC’s Today, when Matt Lauer presented a joint interview with Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts. Watch it below, as an appetizer or dessert, and Crossfire Hurricane will feel like more of a complete beggar’s banquet.