The Stone Roses: Made of Stone

Director: Shane Meadows
Cast: Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary Mounfield
Length: 96 minutes
Country: UK

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone is a film, which is unlikely to bring The Stone Roses any new fans, not that they need them. Many will tell you that the criteria for a good music documentary is that the story told should be interesting even if you are not a fan of the music. Made of Stone does not pass this test, though in this case that does not mean that it is not still a great piece of work. Put simply, if you love The Stone Roses you will love this documentary and for that matter, this is a film as much made about the fan, as it is for the fan.

The film opens with Ian Brown sauntering on stage with his infamous simian swagger to what would at first appear a rather incongruous Hitchcock quote about the ‘clear horizon’ of happiness. Though if you cast your mind back to all the turmoil, this act has been through following their influential first record, it does finally feel like the light at the end of a long tunnel has been reached. We then see some excellent montage work, which manages to put the entire history of The Stone Roses into the succinct five-minute run time of classic opener ‘I Wanna Be Adored.’

If there is one message that this film is here to send, it is that the Roses mean an awful lot to an awful lot of people. This film is as much a clear portrayal of the fans’ devotion to the band, of which director Shane Meadows clearly is, as it is about the importance of the band itself. The concert footage often spends as much time if not longer on lingering shots of someone’s ecstatic bewilderment at witnessing The Stone Roses resurrection than on the band’s own performance.

The first two thirds of the film then cut together the twin stories of the band’s original history, from the friendship of singer Ian brown and guitarist John Squire in the late 70’s and early 80’s, through their meteoric rise and shortly followed infamous fall from grace alongside the story of the second coming (the reunion not the album) and the build up to their grand return and Manchester’s Heaton Park. The cutting together of these two halves is mostly seamless, although it has a tendency to cut away just when you feel desperate to know what happens next. Sometimes it feels as if this is sort of the point, The Roses being eternally a band that leave us wanting more.

This film is as much a clear portrayal of the fans’ devotion to the band as it is about the importance of the band itself.

In the interest of balance, I should point out that I am myself a pretty big fan who was indeed present at Heaton Park and spent the first ten minutes of this film grinning from ear to ear simply at seeing The Roses grand return again. It should also be noted that if you are after a detailed exploration of the tale of their original break up, this is not the go to documentary. For that, I would recommend Blood on the Turntable – War of the Roses, a made-for-TV BBC documentary that details the troubles, which lead to the collapse of The Roses. Meadows and the band clearly do not wish to waste much time digging up the past when the future appears to hold so much for both the band and their fans. Much has been said about the fact that when the band seem at their most fractured during their warm up to the grand return, Meadows chose to pull away rather than attempt to dig deeper, somewhat clearly the sign of a fan not wanting to step on his heroes toes even if it would have given us a better insight to what was going on.

The last 15 to 20 minutes of this film plays more like a clip from the Heaton Park Live DVD than an investigative documentary. Exhilarating and visceral concert footage though it is, there is no analysis left for Meadows at the end of this film so we are left with a slightly indulgent live clip: entertaining for the fandom, less so for those who want to find out more.

The film’s most heart-wrenching moments are centred firmly on the fans: the crowds waiting for the first reunion show in Warrington who cite the band as “the reason I never wore a tie”; a small but heartfelt moment of rebellion that perfectly captures the band’s spirit. This and the fan who narrowly missed out on a ticket admitting that he tried to sell his car to get in and perhaps even more incredibly that no one took him up on the offer, perfectly demonstrate how this band have come to mean so much to a handful of people.

If you are not a fan of The Stone Roses’ work, then I can easily see this work feeling fairly self-indulgent, which in most terms would be cause for dismissing the film. But Meadows personal passion for this act has given us an adoring if slightly infatuated documentary that isn’t here to pry the Roses apart, but is ecstatic to have them back.

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