gimme shelter

November 4, 2008

“who’s fighting and what for?”

i will be getting around (shortly) to write ups on the big sleep and touch of evil, but we just watched gimme shelter for my documentary class and i want to write some quick thoughts up on it while it’s still fresh in my mind.

i was never a rolling stones fan.  even in high school when i was all about the classic rock, i still wasn’t a fan.  i’d even go so far as to say that i outright hated a lot of their songs.  so when the professor starts the film, i already thinking about how i’m going to sneak out so i won’t have to watch 90 minutes of songs i don’t want to hear.  but the more i watched the more i was drawn into the film, especially once they get to altamont.  maybe i was too harsh on them in high school, but the songs were not that bad.  i still am not going to buy any of their albums (or even obtain them by other measures) but i could see why thousands of people would go to a stones show.  but that was not the most interesting stuff in the film.

i had known about the altamont concert for a while, but actually seeing it on film is a whole other thing.  to watch the progression of a crowd of 300,000 people go from excited to progressively more and more violent is an amazing thing.  you truly feel the atmosphere of the place completely change.  which i have to give the maysles brothers a lot of credit for.  they were really able to capture the atmosphere of the entire event.  and to actually see the man get stabbed on film is one of the most visceral moments i’ve had watching any film.  and i loved how the maysles paired that with mic watching the footage for the first time.  watching his face as he process how the night went on and how the violence affects him was really amazing.  the camera just lingers on his face as we watch it, and his blank expression tells us all we need to know.

i was really taken aback by how much i really loved this movie.  and not being a stones fan, i think that’s saying a lot.  the maysles made it (or the second half at least) not about the stones but about an event.  something that changed everyone who was there, and possibly the 60s as a movement as well.


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