LOS ANGELES — If you needed another reminder of the implacability of time, the Rolling Stones are currently celebrating 50 years in show business — a fact that might blow the minds of people old enough to use the phrase “blow my mind” and at the same time mean less than nothing to people young enough to regard 50 years as an imponderable abstraction.
As part of the band’s several-pronged multimedia anniversary — a two-year party, dating either from the initial 1962 confluence of blues fans Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards or to the January 1963 addition of last original Stone Charlie Watts — HBO will premiere Thursday a new documentary, “Crossfire Hurricane.” The title, taken from the song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” reflects the film’s temperament: It pictures their life together as a swirling maelstrom that sucks them up out of the London clubs in the early ‘60s and spits them out, a decade and a half later, as the stadium attraction they remain, when they feel like it.
Director Brett Morgen (co-director, with Nanette Burstein, of the visually fanciful 2002 Robert Evans documentary “The Kid Stays in the Picture”) begins with a series of voice-overs from his panel of somewhat contradictory narrators, as if to say, This cannot be definitive: “It’s almost a fairy story, you know,” says Keith. Charlie “can’t remember much of it, to be honest” and Mick can remember some of it but says that it’s all written down somewhere, and Bill Wyman, the last man to quit the Rolling Stones, quotes the old adage that one shouldn’t “let the truth spoil a good story.”
Like the Evans film, which was a kind of illustrated memoir, “Crossfire Hurricane” relies almost exclusively on the voices of its subjects. (This is an authorized biography.) Given that there are seven of them, however, including former members Wyman and Mick Taylor and the late Jones, heard in archival clips, there is a certain amount of self-correction and myth-busting.