SPRINTED over to the “Stones in Exile” special screening and press conference this afternoon. It was mayhem. Packed crowds spilling onto the Croisette to get a glimpse of Mick Jagger. Journalists queuing for over two hours simply to get a seat. I managed to just get in. And everyone behind me in the queue was left – devastated – on the other side of the velvet rope.
So was it worth it? Well kind of. Especially since Mick Jagger was there. He bounced in, with these bright white takkies emblazoned with a silver lining, and delivered a speech in both French and English. All about being “young, good looking and stupid back then” and how now they’re just “stupid” (or stupide if you’re French). And he answered questions after the doc. Very chilled. And kind of exactly how you want Mick Jagger to be.
But the documentary left me feeling a little less than satisfied. It was fascinating, for sure. An interesting behind-the-scenes look at rare footage and photographs of the band (although not enough Mick) during the early ’70s when they were forced into exile in the South of France to escape bankruptcy and a 93% tax law under the British Labour Government.
But you didn’t get a sense of the amazing creativity that went into the “Exile on Main Street” album that was made during this period (1972). Instead you just got a sense of sadness that they were so deeply entrenched in drugs. Anita Pallenberg (Keith Richards’ partner at the time) admits that at one stage she was “doing smack for breakfast, lunch and dinner” and felt that she’d been cursed. Not really inspiring. But then maybe I’m being a spoilsport because I’ve seen up-close-and-personal the effects – even death – that drugs have had on some of my best friends.
There are good bits though. Like all good expats, Bill Wyman laments at how difficult exile was to “try replace everyone you loved”, let alone find PG Tips and other British products in France! (Try being a South African expat in France!)
There’s also a blond 8-year-old boy who features in quite a bit of the footage. The doc-makers tracked him down and you hear him reminisce in the film about how his “function in life was to be a joint roller”. And Mick informed us (after the screening) that the blond boy is actually the guy who stars as Patricia Arquette’s husband in “Medium”…”so you see,” said Mick, “it didn’t do him any harm…although it’s not a recommended vocation for an 8-year-old!”
The album was made in the basement of Keith Richards’ massive villa (Villa Nellcote) in Villefranche-Sur-Mer (which is less than an hour up the road from here). At one stage Keith provides an interesting summation of Mick and himself, saying that he tends to be more loose (“I just wake up”) while Mick likes to have plans made for the next day. “I always say Mick’s the Rock and I’m the Roll,” he says. Mick begs to differ: “I thought I rolled, and he rocked,” he told us afterwards.
Keith also reveals in the doc that Mick is always looking ahead, always wanting to improve what he’s creating, never looking back. And it was apparent in the press conference too. When a journo asked Mick if making the documentary had made him nostalgic for those old times he answered: “Nostalgic? What would that be like? It was a good period. It’s gone. It’s well evoked in this documentary though, so buy the DVD!”
And you know. I think I will. Because the more I’m telling you about it, the more I realise I actually did get quite a bit out of it. And the music was fantastic. Would love to tell you more – but I think you’d prefer to watch it yourself!
“Stones in Exile” is a BBC documentary, directed by Steven Kijak, being shown as part of the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s available to pre-order on Amazon (and there’s a short promo video you can view): http://www.amazon.com/Stones-Exile-Steven-Kijak/dp/B003GCMX5Y