Sunday, June 25, 2006

Gimmie Shelter (1970)

Dir: Albert and David Maysles

The Rolling Stones had decided to try and recreate Woodstock by giving a free concert in December of 1969. With the help of the infamous Melvin Belli (attorney) the Stones were finally able to secure a location and put together a force of hundreds to get the venue setup with only hours to spare. They had anticipated a large crowd but like their east coast predecessor, the crowd soon grew larger than they had ever dreamed. When the concert started, over 300,000 had gathered to hear the Stones, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and the Flying Burrito Brothers play in what would become the most infamous concert of the decade.

The Maysles brothers were working on a new type of documentary film without narration and with as little manipulation as possible. Instead, they placed the camera, several actually, in various places about the concert and let you decide the meaning behind the images that they captured. They were able to film the Stones before the concert and had unlimited access during the show, as a result they were able to capture the events with great accuracy. What they captured was not only a momentous rock concert but the death of a decade. Even though the concert was only a few months after Woodstock, the end result was totally opposite.

At some point it was decided that the Hells Angels would provide security for the event, a decision that would prove to be deadly. Over the course of the afternoon the feel of the concert slowly degraded into utter chaos where a Hells Angel, right in front of the stage and camera, stabbed one man to death. The film goes beyond the simplicity of a concert film in a structure that stacks several layers of meaning between concert footage. If there is one film that sums up the end of the 1960s in America Gimmie Shelter is definitely it.


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