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Rolling Stones Stories

Review: ‘Keith Richards: Under the Influence,’ in His Own Gravelly Words

Review: ‘Keith Richards: Under the Influence,’ in His Own Gravelly Words

Is there such a thing as a mumblecore documentary? There is now, thanks to “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” a frustrating film that has its premiere on Friday on Netflix.

In “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” available Friday on Netflix, the Rolling Stones guitarist discusses his career and creative process

In “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” available Friday on Netflix, the Rolling Stones guitarist discusses his career and creative process

Mr. Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist, talks about his career, his influences and his creative process, tossing out fragments of thought in that impossibly gravelly voice. You certainly feel as if you were getting to know the man as he really is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gaining much insight.

The film stitches together footage of Mr. Richards walking the streets, staring out a car window, doodling at a piano or on the guitar. He drops the names of American bluesmen and country music stars who shaped his musical tastes, but they’re the same ones who shaped every other rock star in his era — Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters — so it’s not particularly illuminating.

Occasionally, he tells a story or a piece of one about a particular song in the Stones canon or a moment in the band’s history, but it never goes very far — for instance, when he recalls an early appearance in New York.

“The buildings, the feel and the smell of the place — that night I remember writing to my mum,” he says, misleading you into thinking he’s about to say something revelatory. “ ‘Mom, I’m in New York City. I’ll tell you more later.’ ”

Vintage clips are fun to see, and there are a few genuine moments when Mr. Richards talks about trying to establish a solo career (his new solo album is being released on Friday), and about creativity.

“In the right mood, and with the right instrument, there’s a certain feeling of being an antenna, receiving and then transmitting,” he says, trying to capture how songs come about.

But there’s also a fair amount of self-aggrandizement, and of Mr. Richards laughing at his own remarks. The film, by Morgan Neville, leaves you feeling as if there were more to Mr. Richards than it has captured.

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