It's this voice-over by Alfred Hitchcock, an answer to an interview question on life and happiness, that accompanies the opening sequence of Shane Meadow's Stone Roses: Made of Stones. As well as being arguably the foremost dramatist of the British working-class frustration in the last twenty years, in films like Dead Man's Shoes, This Is England, and its TV spinoffs, This Is England '86 and '88, Meadow is, as it transpires, a super fan of seminal Manchester rock group The Stone Roses. As such, who better to document their long-awaited reunion tour after a sixteen year break?
Meadows' love for the band is undeniable, lingering for minute after minute in full HD slow motion over lead singer Ian Brown posing for photos by the barricade at Heaton Park in front 75,000 screaming devotees. The sheer energy is unbelievable, the love and passion being poured from all directions at these four blokes, to me neither as recognizable as Oasis or The Beatles nor as talented. As such, claims in interviews of their promise to become the greatest band ever seem somewhat overblown, though their fan base clearly demands respect.
There are some amazing stories from the queue outside Parr Hall in Warrington where the Stones Roses played their first reunion gig, having announced it on the radio only that morning. One aspiring concert-goer, for instance, claims to walked off a building project having just knocked down a wall and promising to his absent friend (and presumed client) to get back and fix it ASAP. Similarly, a look at The Stones Roses' rehearsal process has the air of a bunch of friends who, after all the acrimony that goes with a band breaking up, love each other and love playing with each other.
Sadly, however, the anecdotal material is thin on the ground and with Meadows presenting only a cursory look at the band's prior fame and the reasons behind it's dissolution, it's easy to see that, in terms of his intended audience, that Meadows is preaching to the choir. As someone on the outside looking in, however interesting it is to just watch the tour unfold, it would have been nice to get more of a feel for who Ian, Mani, Reni, and John are behind their public personas. Stone Roses: Made of Stone nevertheless remained strangely captivating, even for a non-fan.
Verdict: Stone Roses: Made of Stone is a loving but deeply frustrating portrait of the band whose reunion it seeks to document. Meadows certainly has objectivity as a filmmaker, surprising given his clear adoration of his subjects, but the film never commits to saying anything about them. Whatever life the personal accounts of fans breathes into the piece is duly extracted by the overlong real-time concert sequences. The implicit promise made by Hitchcock's monologue in the opening sequence, to show the promise of a talented musical group destroyed by petty recriminations, is never fulfilled: just as the dressing room door is closed to Meadows, so is it to us. Not No Direction Home so much as, well, no direction. Still, ***