Coming soon to a motorway service area near you...
Just like the Pathe New clips that this documentary uses to the full in outlining a cursory history of the Rolling Stones, 'Truth & Lies' barely scratches the surface and doesn't in fact explore the question posed in the title.
Taking the chronological approach and fleshing out a year by year account of a band only really works when you research enough footage of both the band's performances and interview relevant contemporaries. In anchoring this documentary with the likes of the supercilious David Hepworth alongside the more scholarly Paul Gambaccini, the affable but bland Chris Welch and the rather peripheral Pamela Church Gibson, this was never going to any more than a limp effort. Only Gambaccini displays any real gravitas or indeed feel for the subject matter although towards the end of the film we do get one of the few really revealing views of one of the talking heads when Pamela Gibson basically says Jagger sold out in accepting his knight hood.
It is of course very easy to be critical of a project like this that aims to take in a 40 year plus career that has already been the subject of hundreds of books and films, but with such a paucity of band footage, there really isn't enough here to do the subject matter justice. What with a surfeit of disparate crowd footage, and with several repeated clips of Jones, Loog Oldham and three no less (count them) of Keith Richard signing an autograph, this film sadly gives out the wrong signals of a cheapo scissors and paste job.
It's not until near the end of the film when Charlie Watts recounts the early days that there is any Stones to camera interviews at all.
'Truth & Lies' is a misleading title in several ways. Brian Jones's death gets brushed over particularly by the inane Hepworth, the significance of Altamont is only touched upon by Gambaccini, Mick Taylor's arrival and departure in the band goes by in a flash and perhaps only the 1980's acrimony between Jagger and Richards is subject to anything resembling analysis. Then there is the question of the ever escalating money the band have generated in the last two decades and in this connection Gambaccini does explain how cleverly the Stones have priced their tickets to penalise the rich and encourage the young.
In conclusion, this is a DVD most Stones fans will pass over, and as a result might find its way to the bargain bins of motorway service stations.
Review by Pete Feenstra