BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“ROLLING STONE: STORIES FROM THE EDGE”
Blu-ray, DVD; 2017; Not Rated, but contains all things “R” including profanity sexuality and nudity, drug use; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube
Best extra: Deleted interview footage with Cameron Crowe
ROLLING STONE magazine’s first issue was published almost 51 years ago. Last year, to celebrate the iconic periodical’s golden anniversary, HBO aired a selective history in the form of a four-hour documentary.
Directed by Alex Gibney (“Going Clear,” “Client 9”) and Blair Foster, “Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge” follows what began as a purely rock-and-roll magazine, whose famous cover bestowed instant caché upon the singer or band lucky enough to be featured. As time passed, Rolling Stone’s reporters began adding other, more serious types of stories to those about the music scene, such as in-depth pieces on religion, politics, Patty Heart’s kidnapping, or the fighting in Afghanistan.
Narrated by Jeff Daniels, the documentary is filled with scores of talking heads, but especially that of Jann Wenner, the magazine’s founder. Recent interviews are interspersed with archival interview footage with such superstars as Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote for Rolling Stone for years; and Annie Leibovitz, who photographed some of its most memorable covers. In one touching segment, she emotionally recalls the cover photo of a naked John Lennon cuddled up with Yoko Ono, which Leibovitz shot literally hours before Lennon was murdered.
The documentary is a roller coaster of a trip through the decades – via music styles, from rock to punk to hip-hop and rap, mixed in with examples of superb journalism, trashy journalism, and even one case of extremely sloppy journalism. Ultimately, Rolling Stone’s path has led it farther and farther away from its rebellious, in-your-face San Francisco roots, and closer toward becoming a part of the “establishment,” and all that implies.
This Shout! Factory two-disc set is a nice package, with HD audio and video looking exactly as viewers should expect. Recent interviews are super-sharp, although archival footage varies, depending on its original source.
Extras include several deleted interview segments, with rapper Ice-T; caricaturist Victor Juhasz; reporters Janet Reitman and Matt Taibbi; Gus Wenner, Jann’s son and now president of Wenner Media; and Jann’s wife Jane. Most interesting is the segment with Cameron Crowe, whose breakthrough with Rolling Stone, while he was still a teenager, inspired his book, and then the film “Almost Famous.” Crowe recalls an interview he did with then-President Gerald Ford’s son, and how it created a journalistic (and moral) dilemma for him. Some things Jack Ford told Crowe could have been damaging to both him and his father. Crowe says he had to think about the “gray area” of whether a source has spoken to you as a person, or as a representative of a publication. He concludes, “You have to arbitrate what gets you to the great profile … as opposed to a
‘gotcha’ with your subject.”
— Peggy Earle