‘The Stones and Brian Jones’ Review: Sympathy for a Founding Rocker

There’s a particular indignity to being dropped from the band you founded.

In the annals of tragic pop mythology, Brian Jones’s ejection from the Rolling Stones has continued to reverberate long past his exit; Jones died at home in England just one month later, at age 27, in July 1969. Nick Broomfield’s latest documentary, “The Stones and Brian Jones,” looks back at Jones’s rise and fall, lingering on the intra-band power plays and fast living that helped bring him down.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards today enjoy rock immortality, but Broomfield underlines Jones’s crucial strand in the Stones’ DNA. Jones’s love for blues set a fire burning in the band’s soul, even as it shifted gears musically. The Stones bassist Bill Wyman is on hand to praise (and sweetly act out) his bandmate’s inspired instrumental touch, from slide guitar work to his fluttering recorder on “Ruby Tuesday.”

But the interviews (many audio-only) lean decisively into Jones’s personal instability. His rebellious streak led his family to throw him out; later, he fathered children by multiple women. The tender twist to this film is that some of his exes — who included Anita Pallenberg and Zouzou, the French actress — help narrate much of his drug-aided decline, most with fondness. Zouzou Gallically muses that Jones pursued women who resembled him though he disliked himself.

Despite Broomfield’s having made investigative docs about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, and Biggie and Tupac, he doesn’t reopen the case of Jones’s drowning. His announcer-like voice-over and sometimes dishy interviews might evoke a “Behind the Music” exposé, but he seems most like a fan with a rueful sympathy for his devil of a subject.

The Stones and Brian Jones
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.

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