Director: Stephen Kijak
Runtime: 61 min; 2010
Review by: Lucas Samuels
There’s a certain irony captured in Stephen Kijak’s film Stones In Exile, the documentary of The Rolling Stones’ now legendary double record, Exile On Main St.
The group was literally exiled from England for not being able to pay their taxes. So, they left the country in their private jet. The Stones set course for the south of France and made camp in Nellcôte, Keith Richard’s pristine colonial style mansion. Funny enough, the time leading up to the recording of the album was seemingly wholesome. The black and white stock footage portrays the Stones as family men first and foremost. With wives, girlfriends, and small children running around, the initial stages of Exile On Main St. do not appear to be very rock and roll at all.
With no suitable recording space to be found in all of southern France however, the Stones (plus a three piece horn section) opted to record in the basement of Nellcôte. With this vital decision came darkness, an underlying theme of the record and the movie. The dank, dingy, and mercilessly hot basement was made up of many small rooms and proved to be a less than ideal recording space. Regardless, the Stones set up shop and recorded the bulk of Exile there. A six-month process.
What the stock footage, still photographs, and newly recorded video footage of Jagger and Watts illustrates is that Exile On Main St., (as cliché as it might sound), was literally fueled by sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. We get to witness the relentless pot smoking (which was never hidden from the children), the whiskey-induced musical madness, and the hard drugs, all of which acted as the motivation for the album. The film also reveals that some of the most famous songs weren't even cut by the band as a whole! The recording of Exile was intensely sporadic; band members traipsed in and out of Nellcôte at their leisure, recording at any given hour of the day. Though the final product may seem like a finally crafted labor of love, throughout the film members of the Stones’ happily admit that much of the music they created was actually garbage. Before Stones In Exile, most fans would find that hard to believe.
Anyone who has listened to the provocative Exile On Main St. knows that there is mysteriously dark vibe to it. What Stones In Exile provides movie-goers with is the ultimate fly-on-the-wall experience, a window into the on-goings of a bunch of exiled-against-their-will Londoners. Though only an hour in length, Stones In Exile is a dense journey that will leave you wondering how the hell The Rolling Stones came out of southern France alive, and with one of rock and roll’s greatest albums to boot.