Sunday, January 28, 2007

Film Nerd: "Stoned"

The coming of the Brian Jones biopic "Stoned," was ballyhooed here at highwayscribery, and we thought it a fun exercise to scoop up the DVD and dish after viewing.

highwayscribery liked this film.

The director, Stephen Woolley, loves his subject: the groundbreaking tow-headed guitarist of The Rolling Stones gone wrong. He alternates between a historian’s loyalty to detail, down to the very clothes Stones fanatics will recognize from episodes in the much-photographed band’s life, and dedicating his project to dramatizing the proposal that Jones was killed by a live-in building contractor, Frank Thorogood.

Woolley’s roundabout narrative games, starting with Jones’ life passing before our eyes as he is pulled moribund from the bottom of his swimming pool by two very hot sixtease girls, and the cutting back and forth between the time of his decline and that of his stratospheric rise, shake up the storytelling without going post-modern and losing coherence.

There was not much buzz about “Stoned” in the press and the few reviews highwayscribery read were not flattering, but one hopes the film found profit in an audience of Stones fans, ’60s nostalgia-types, rock historians, and good old-fashioned libertines it should appeal to.

[They do the above “market paragraph” thing in “Variety” all the time.]

Aiming for an audience of ’60s aesthetes has its risks for there are calls to be made regarding the fashion, soundtrack, and attitudes of a much picked-over era. When Woolley opts for Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” as underlay to a first LSD shared by Jones and legendary Rock ‘n Roll galfriend Anita Pallenberg, it seems a bit on the nose.

In the end, however, it works wonderfully, the sound guy cheating a little, raising the volume as Grace Slick thunders, “Feed your head! FEED YOUR HEAD!” as the editing’s pacing heads into warp speed.

And so it goes, the director shedding light on Brian’s mystical dreamworld at his Olde Ynglish mansion, on the way he was fired from the band, on his sad descent into weakness and self-pity, or choosing merely to reproduce, verbatim, famous moments known to Stones freaks everywhere, such as his musical encounter with the drumming Jajouka of Morocco.

And that works, too.

The film is a visual smorgasbord always within rather now-conventional ’60s parameters, starting with the Rolling Stones playing “Little Red Rooster” in a black-and-white club scene, and unspooling a kaleidoscopic Moroccan palette as the boys head toward Marakesh’s heart of darkness, ensconced in a Rolls Royce, to share drugs and thoughts with writer and artist Brion Gysin.

the scribe’s not much at weighing thespian performance, but he’s secure enough to say that the actress Monet Mazur looks good on screen, and that the sex-drenched script plays to her strong suit.

The guy portraying Jagger is dead-on where both looks and voice are concerned. Frank, the purported murderer - the closing credits claim he confessed on his death bed - is a fantastic foil, a working-class schmutz completely taken in by the far away and stoned-out paradise Jones has constructed for himself. The film slowly heightens Frank’s (Paddy Considine) sexual frustration, his growing awareness of books and songs previously unknown, and his meanspirited mistreatment at the hands of a spoiled rock star.

Please don’t say that is who Brian Jones was.

Leo Gregory, who plays Jones, isn’t nearly as good-looking as the real item, but takes to the job with a passion that seems to have permeated all the crew and players behind “Stoned.”

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