'Shine a Light' rocks fest's opening night

The Rolling Stones brought down the house in the Berlinale’s most spectacular opening night in years as the fest got off to a rocking start with Martin Scorsese’s docu “Shine a Light.”

The band’s appearance triggered pandemonium as police shut down traffic Thursday evening in downtown Berlin while crowds pressed their way into the Potsdamer Platz area and surrounded the Berlinale Palast hoping to catch a glimpse of the rockers on the red carpet. Even the legions of hard-nosed Berlin cops manning the security dividers stood up on the bumpers of their police vans for a look.

Geriatric fans dressed in psychedelic duds and groovy Stones wear — head-to-toe in lips logos — loitered all day in front of the Berlinale’s main venue, waiting on their aging heroes in what was unusually mild February weather for the German capital.

For fest topper Dieter Kosslick, snagging the Rolling Stones is one of the biggest coups of his career, and the excitement the pic has generated won’t be easy to top.

Taking the stage to introduce the film, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Scorsese received a thunderous standing ovation from the overflowing crowd, which included Sam Riley, Alexandra Maria Lara, Patti Smith, Goldie Hawn, Brian De Palma, Steven Soderbergh, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Michael Ballhaus and Neil Young, whose own documentary, “CSNY Deja Vu,” unspools in the Berlinale Special sidebar today.

“We want to thank Dieter for opening the show with our movie,” Jagger said. “It’s a real honor.”

A beaming Scorsese, who has described the Stones’ music as “the soundtrack of my life,” recalled the last time he was in Berlin, with “Raging Bull” in 1981, but he declined to elaborate on why that film was delayed at its West German premiere. “We had a little problem, but it eventually showed,” the director said sheepishly.

Scorsese explained earlier at a press conference that his aim was to make watching the documentary as close as possible to the experience of being at a Stones concert. “It was about capturing an obscure object of desire for me. Making the film was rejuvenating,” he said.

The premiere of “Shine a Light” marked the first time in the fest’s 58-year history that the main competition section has kicked off with a documentary.

Getting through the evening’s formalities before the screening, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit gushed: “It’s wonderful that Dieter Kosslick managed to bring the Rolling Stones to our city. The Berlinale has become an extraordinary festival, and we have Dieter Kosslick to thank for it.”

German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann, whose office foots most of the bill for the fest, took the opportunity to extol the success of the e60 million ($87 million) German Federal Film Fund and announced that it would continue beyond its initial three-year run.

“It’s not only the stars that are coming to Berlin. The producers are coming, too,” Neumann said, adding that the fund last year helped bankroll 99 local films and international co-productions in Germany, creating a boom in the local industry.

Referring to the now-outlawed tax-shelter film funds that once epitomized the German film industry, Neumann said: “The old film funds were known as stupid German money. Now it’s time to talk about smart German money.”

The slick opening-night production was broadcast live on German pubcaster 3Sat. German pop band Wir sind Helden opened the show with a bouncy number, leading show host Katrin Bauerfeind to quip, “They deserve an award for being here to open for the Rolling Stones.”

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