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Gimme Shelter

Director:  Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin
Year Released:  1970
Rating:  3.5

Infamous rock-documentary, which successfully incorporates concert footage with a close, personal view of the Rolling Stones backstage, coming out of a Holiday Inn or recording a new song. The real key part of the film comes at the end, with the tragic concert at Altamont Speedway in California, where members of the Hell's Angels murdered hippies. Gimme Shelter is actually a film within a film, as the directors frequently cut to shots of the Stones (notably Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts) as they view footage of what transpired during the chaos of the performance. Parallels exist between the Stones watching the action on a reel-to-reel and the tragedy of seeing Kennedy get killed on the Zapruder film. Jagger, in particular, is particularly quiet, and we see him, sad but expressionless, as he (and we) watch the biker about to plunge the dagger into an armed African-American man. The implications are varied, though the film takes the "easy route" out and refuses to show or discuss the aftereffects of the tragedy, which may, depending on how you view Gimme Shelter, be artistically wise or weak from an investigative angle. In fact, the filmmakers are even implicated in the whole fiasco, and their presence brings up the loaded question as to how art affects truth and vice-versa. The footage is amazing - the Stones perform their hits and the many cameramen in the audience (one of whom is none other than George Lucas) show a young, disillusioned culture run amok, fixed in a drugged-out, psychotic haze. I personally don't blame the Stones, but in viewing this thirty years after the fact, they might be more than a little embarrassed by their own naiveté.

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