Gimme Shelter (1970)

Dir. Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin

I wouldn’t really recommend this to any of the idiots, although it’s not a bad film. This film appears in the 1001 films book, and I can see how it was picked. I just didn’t care for it, partly because the film didn’t add too much more information than I already knew about the subject matter.

This is a documentary about the Rolling Stones’ Altamont Concert. If you don’t know the details of the concert, you probably should keep it that way if you plan to see this. (I think it would make for more interesting viewing.) Like Woodstock, this is just as much a “slice-of-the-times” kind of film as it is a concert film. Basically, the Stones wanted to give a free concert in San Francisco. But things do go as smoothly as planned.

I don’t get the Stones at all. I mean they do have some songs that I like and there are some moments where I sense something interesting going on, but I just don’t get accolades like, “the greatest rock and roll band of all-time.” The first third of the film features a lot of Stones’ performances before Altamont (They were on a U.S. tour.) I tried to pay attention, but I still don’t get it: Mick is not that great of a singer and his dancing is kinda stuipid looking. I don’t know what the big deal is about Keith Richards either: he doesn’t have a really interesting sound and his solos are unexceptional. I certainly didn’t get the energy and charisma that this group supposedly exudes.

There were a couple of interesting things in the film. One is the irony of the concert. It was supposed to showcase the way the young people of that generation knew how to get along (versus their elders). In fact, the concert proved otherwise. One of the biggest problems was hiring–by promising all the beer they could drink–the Hell’s Angels to be security. I wished the filmmakers sort of explored who made that decision. The other interesting thing about the film is that portions of it contain the Rolling Stones reacting to the raw footage of the documentary. Seeing their reactions was an interesting approach, although I didn’t feel like it was a especially revealing or powerful.

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