Having taken the world by storm when bursting onto the scene in 1989, Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield and Alan ‘Reni’ Wren became one of the most influential bands to have existed, with a strong cult-like following amongst their ardent fans. However when the band broke up in 1996, it appeared that they would never reform, with telling signs coming from Squire and his now infamous quote “I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses”. However having announced their decision to reform back in 2011, the four piece prepared for a series of shows back in their home town at Heaton Park, and Meadows was on hand to document this much awaited resurrection.
It is worth noting that Made of Stone is not an insightful or educational piece of documentary filmmaking. We learn very little about why the band first split up, nor we do feel any wiser about why they decided to get back together. Instead, this picture is merely a celebration of this wonderful band’s music, working as a love letter from a fan, and a labour of love, as we simply sit back and appreciate how great a band The Stone Roses are, and what they have meant to generations of people across the past 25 years. This is a film made by a fan, for the fans, in what feels like a really personal piece of cinema, and yet somehow is one that will appeal to millions, as Meadows’ own abilities as a director shine through.
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Meadows is not afraid to play songs in their entirety, which is exactly what you want from such a film. This entire project has been born out of a love for their music, so it seems only right to actually listen to it, rather than present mere snippets – a mistake many music documentaries make, often dipping in and out of various tracks, never allowing for the full experience. There is also a brave move implementing a lengthy live version of Fools Gold at one point. Meadows even has a role in the film himself, as a visible part of the production, with monologues to camera on occasion. Often such a technique can feel somewhat self-indulgent and narcissistic, but in this we require the filmmaker’s presence, as he represents the fan, and we watch on through his adoring eyes.
As a result, we are left with a truly emotional and absorbing picture, bringing a tear to your eye to see just how much this band means to people and the impact they’ve had on people’s lives, making for a touching and inspiring documentary. There is also a poignant reminder about growing up, and how those involved in the rave culture of early 90’s ‘Madchester’ struggle to let go of their past, and how the return of the Roses is a much needed nostalgia trip down memory lane and an opportunity to relive that lost youth, when maybe life was simpler. Particularly evident during the interviews with fans at the special warm up show in Warrington. The use of black and white footage for the material shot in the modern day is effective in this respect, immortalising it somewhat, taking us back to the era and disallowing us the chance to truly differentiate between the past and the modern day. Meadows does a fine job from a visual perspective, with an array of beautiful shots, masterfully edited together, making the viewer feel almost as though they are at the gig themselves and part of the film.
Meadows allows us to feel intimately attached to the band, seeing them as mere human beings, with candid footage from moments backstage and from precious rehearsal sessions. The band come across incredibly well too, as down to earth characters, allowing us the chance to relate to them. Even the fact that Brown has a somewhat dodgy singing voice is all part of the appeal, with this idea that anyone can be a rock star, as his own imperfections endear you to him, taking away that mythology that exists around the band. Their personalities come through greatest when you see how humble they all are when they swoon over Eric Cantona as he attends one of their shows in France. Even the idolised can worship others.
Made of Stone is breathtaking cinema, though unlike the title, the one thing that isn’t made of stone is your heart, as you need to be prepared to shed a tear or two. It must be said that to fully appreciate this documentary you do really need to be a fan, as given the celebratory nature there isn’t quite so much appeal to those who aren’t fussed about The Stone Roses or their music. Though if this isn’t enough to convert you, then nothing ever will.