“Film Spotlight: Crossfire Hurricane.”

Ok, you’re really gonna hate me for this one: I discovered this flick which appropriately enough, came out the same year, 2012, as Ice-T’s equally underrated doc. Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, by googling “Crossfire Hurricane” to find out about the Trump scandal, an entity which also surely mystifies me. Sorry, I promise that’s the last time I mention Trump on my blog.
Crossfire Hurricane is a documentary film about The Rolling Stones directed by Brett Morgen, a filmmaker born in 1968 who, like Lester Bangs, comes originally from California to then drift to New York City for his professional career in music. Let’s just say he’s got Lester Bangs’ knack for POIGNANCE, for making statements powerfully, framing seemingly disparate elements of people’s lives so that you clearly sense cause and effect.
One important thing I learned from Crossfire Hurricane, as I’d already known about the violent Altamont show where the Hell’s Angels acted as security, is that the Stones actually got busted for doing acid a little before this, an episode which from the events in the movie I think must have happened in ’67 or early ’68. The way Morgen frames the music against the event is exemplary: we see how the song “Jumping Jack Flash” exploded out of this mire they were in with the law (I think they were only locked up for a couple of hours but still it’s disconcerting, I’d imagine, to realize that you don’t actually have true freedom). Close after comes Beggars Banquet and “Sympathy for the Devil” (In December ’68, following the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King) and we get a full, overwhelming sense of the interactive nature of things, great governing bodies of music like The Rolling Stones acting as our zeitgeists for their ability to truly feel things and process them in a way that, while familiar, is also new and galvanized by its claim to being also unprecedented.
Crossfire Hurricane starts from the top, interestingly denoting around ’66 how the Stones’ audiences in Britain were predominantly female and elsewhere were predominantly male (though nobody in this movie seems to have a beard). It accounts of girls in the audience wetting themselves (I found it funny that some people seemed to refer to it as “urine” that the girls were excreting whereas others kept it nondescript, presumably implying the lubricating fluid although they didn’t specify). It’s got them doing a bunch of numbers including “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” a song written by a black man, Willie Dixon, and recorded and made famous by another black man, Muddy Waters. They do a “Little Red Rooster” (a Howlin’ Wolf tune) and lots of amped-up originals, although all in all, I found the live recordings a little bit lacking. For instance, the “Street Fighting Man” is overly fast, rushed and lacking in feeling, a take so empty of distinction and sonic body that it really makes you realize how insufficiently appreciated studio producers are in music, at least in this exact cinematic realm.
Indeed, much is made of the Stones’ appearance: one Jewish-looking New York cutie refers to them, in full dialect, as “so ugly that they’re appealing.” This, combined with the Altamont incident at which, I’m not sure but I think a black guy actually dies, sort of like in the Hollywood horror movies, paints I guess somewhat of a grim depiction of humanity itself, since there seem to be motives in place for witnessing the Stones and getting a feel for their live show other than the appeal of music itself. Morgen and the overall film project should though get credit for portraying this unflinchingly, not trying to sugarcoat the results of events or opinions in a more optimistic light.
A couple other musical moments I’d like to mention just briefly in the film include, firstly, the live spot of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and secondly, the awesome framing of “She’s a Rainbow” over the account of the acid trip. What I’d like to proffer about “Satisfaction” is that when you hear this song live, it becomes a little easier to see why it’s such a fan favorite, traditionally speaking. It’s really relegated amidst my own generation underneath “Sympathy for the Devil” and probably “Under My Thumb” as well as “Paint it, Black” in terms of what’s the strongest Stones ode. All of these songs, though, are more complex and textural than “Satisfaction”: “Sympathy for the Devil” with its piano and “woo-woo” part (which was troublingly absent from the live version, again to the relative advantage of “Satisfaction”), “Paint it, Black” with its trippy guitar technique and “Under My Thumb” with its xylophone, or whatever that thing is.
So yeah, it’s kinda dark, but the moral of Crossfire Hurricane is probably: STAY AWAY FROM ROLLING STONES CONCERTS AT ALL COSTS, especially since we don’t even know what that bodily secretion unsavorily cloaking the floor even IS.

Leave a Reply