Shane Meadows delivers a roistering film about extreme fandom under the subtle guise of a Stone Roses biography.
Cinema is a tool with which to remodel your dreams. As a whippersnapper growing up in Uttoxeter, director Shane Meadows decided to drop acid for the first time on the day he was supposed to see The Stone Roses play their iconic Spike Island gig in Merseyside. They were (and are) his favourite band, but, temporarily stranded in a hallucinogenic fug, he handed his ticket to a random stranger. It was lost. The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone is not just a cut-and-dried promotional document of the feud-inclined combo’s long-awaited reformation, but a chance for Meadows to relive a moment he thought had slipped away forever.
This dream is rendered in stylish, high-contrast monochrome, the same used by Meadows for his miniature pre-teen moonlight flit movie, Somers Town. This endearingly earnest documentary runs with the notion of rock stars as mythic creatures. Meadows captures the sub-sonic buzz of something as utterly banal as Ian Brown wandering into a hotel room before a press junket and contentedly clasping hands with bass player Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield.
Though we’re given a decent potted history of the band and the scene they grew out of, Meadows’ film is more concerned with exploring the idea of hero worship. It’s about seeing rock bands as brands, religions, sects, cults, bodies for which one must pay penances and relinquish earthly souls. It’s about what it means to adore a group of people beyond basic emotional and economic rationality.
This idea is brought to life most vividly in an extraordinary, almost Fellini-esque sequence at the centre of the film in which Meadows captures the minute germination of a secret warm-up gig which is announced via social networking and radio mere hours before the fact. This segment achieves a rare feat within the music film pantheon in that it attentively captures the feeling of euphoria that comes with seeing a band play live. It’s not just hearing your favourite tunes, pogoing in tides of sweat and quaffing overpriced watery lager from plastic cups. It’s the queuing, the waiting, the sacrifice and finally, the fevered, post-coital comedown after the band has left the building.
Though fans of the Roses will no doubt feel sated by the hit-happy song selections and performances (culled mainly from the seminal first album), it’s also interesting how Meadows has chosen to portray these artists. There’s a sense of unalloyed reverence here not seen since Martin Scorsese trained his camera on The Band for their farewell extravaganza. In one warm-up session, he films each band member individually and then presents them simultaneously in a split-screen mash-up. It may come across like a throwaway piece of post-production flash, but it also emphasises the precarious delineation of their unique collaboration and that, like The Beatles before them, The Stone Roses are these four people or no one at all.
For the film’s big encore, Meadows films a live version of ‘Fool’s Gold’ at Manchester’s Heaton Park. He includes the entire coda which famously consists of an intuitive and lengthy noodle jam between the players. It’s a lovely moment in which the focus of the film switches from the songs to the music. It also taps into a level of extreme devotion wherein a fan becomes immune to the creative indulgences of his or her idols.
It may not be a fiction feature, but it’s still Shane Meadows.
Even Stone Roses naysayers will find it tough to deny the film’s euphoric energy.
It’s about The Stone Roses, but it’s also about so much more.