Monday, December 6, 2010

GIMME SHELTER by the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin Released in NYC in 1970

40 years ago today the landmark film, Gimme Shelter, directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin was released in NYC, recording, of course, the Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour that culminated in the Altamont Speedway free concert in San Francisco, CA, on Satursdday, December 6, 1969. Violence etween the Hells Angels, audience members, and even the performers. By the time The Stones hit the stage, it was evening, and the crowd was especially restless. The Stones opened with "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and are also shown performing "Sympathy for the Devil", as the tension continues to build. It is during the next song, "Under My Thumb", that a member of the audience, 18 year old Meredith Hunter, pulls out a revolver in the course of a melee near the stage, and is stabbed to death by Alan Passaro, a Hells Angels member.

This remains a remarkable film, associated with the Direct Cinema movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Maysles Brothers, who directed it, are strong figures of the era, having also directed  "Grey Gardens," "Salesman" and "The Beatles: First US Visit."  Filmmaker Charlotte Zwerin was an essential collaborator with the Mayles in the making of the film. The "Direct Cinema" movement revolves around the philosophy of being a "reactive" filmmaker. Rather than investigating a subject matter through such documentary techniques as interviews, reconstruction and voiceover, direct cinema simply records events as they unfold naturally and spontaneously, although edited to provide a broad, wide ranging and comprehensive story.

More on the film's background here

Gimme Shelter trailer here"


Film essays by the filmmakers, participants and others from the excellent Criterion Collection here


When I was a high school student, back in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, we rented and screened a 16 mm copy of the film. Then, as now, a visionary, troubling work about the flip side of "the Age of Aquarius."

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