Before embarking on their 1972 American tour, the Rolling Stones hired filmmaker-photographer Robert Frank (PULL MY DAISY) to document the proceedings. He accomplished the task, with all of the music, drugs, groupies, and boredom intact. Unfortunately, the Stones were so upset by their
portrayal that the film remains, to this day, under a court order that only allows it to be shown when Robert Frank is present.
An opening disclaimer declares that, except for the musical numbers, everything in this film is "fictitious." With that legal obligation out of the way, the movie--which randomly mixes color and b&w footage--begins with the Rolling Stones's preparation for their tour and a bit of studio jamming.
In between their concert appearances, it takes time-out from the band in order to visit their all-too-hardcore fans, interview ticket scalpers, and get a taste of the chaos surrounding this US invasion. Onboard their party plane, the rowdy roadies strip nubile groupies on-camera and have sex on
the floor, while Jagger keeps a safe distance.
The Stones themselves take a backseat to most of this on-screen frivolity, and often seem too sweaty, stoned, and burnt-out to enjoy anything. Meanwhile, interchangeable hotel rooms abound, as do the women and between-gigs tedium. One exception is in the deep South, when the Stones take to the
road and sample the local poolroom culture. After that respite, it's back to the grind, with Stevie Wonder joining them on-stage for a one-of-a-kind performance. And later, without the band in sight, it degenerates into on-camera use of hypodermic needles, room service, and drug-induced babbling.
Once the Stones appear, they slip on their groovy threads and hit the stage for one last time on the tour.
Unlike the simultaneously filmed LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE ROLLING STONES (1973), which was a straight-forward concert film, director Robert Frank (who also photographed the cover of The Stones' Exile on Main Street album) fearlessly captures everything on-camera, underbelly and all, and edits it
together into a raw, rude, and experimental endeavor. But considering its notorious reputation, you'd expect the Stones to be at their peak of perversity. Instead, the film is deadeningly paced, and it's the roadies and hangers-on who are the most indulgent--while the band seems apathetic about
the whole scene. Even their attempts at cliched anarchy seem tired (you can almost hear them thinking, "Do we have to toss another TV out of a window?"), while the laughs are unintentional when Jagger seems intellectually stymied by room service's request to know what type of fruit he wants to
order. Without question, one of the more telling moments has Keith Richards shooting up and promptly turning into a snoozing invertebrate.
Mind you, when it comes to the music, it doesn't get any better, with blazing renditions of "Brown Sugar," "Midnight Rambler," "Happy," and "Street Fighting Man." There's also Stevie Wonder on keyboards for the ultimate version of "Uptight"--then joining Mick on vocals for "Satisfaction." With its
handheld camerawork, these moments transcend all else, and capture the Rolling Stones at their most incendiary. Despite (or perhaps, because of) its ragged structure, C.S. BLUES is, arguably, the bleakest, most perceptive portrait of a band's life on the road and at the top. (Nudity, sexualsituations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Released: 1972
- Rating: NR
- Review: Before embarking on their 1972 American tour, the Rolling Stones hired filmmaker-photographer Robert Frank (PULL MY DAISY) to document the proceedings. He accomplished the task, with all of the music, drugs, groupies, and boredom intact. Unfortunately, the… (more)