1970. USA. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin. 92 min.
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 5:00 p.m.
Theater 1 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1), T1
1970. USA. Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin. The standard riff about Gimme Shelter is that it sounded the death knell of the 1960s counterculture movement. As the cameras rolled, 300,000 strung-out hippies and wannabe prophets converged on Altamont Speedway for a free concert with The Rolling Stones, Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, only to have their heads cracked open by Hells Angels wielding lead-tipped pool cues. The film, however, is a masterpiece of contemplative, even retrospective, observation, and what should be equally remembered are the emotional timbres that run counter to the violence and chaos: the joyful exuberance of the Madison Square Garden show, with Mick Jagger slowed down, multiply exposed, and bathed in Chip Monck’s dreamy red-and-blue lights during “Love in Vain”; the drowsy tenderness of the band listening to a recording of “Wild Horses” at Muscle Shoals as the camera drifts across their faces and hands and snakeskin boots; and the seriocomic complacency of grander-than-life Stones lawyer Melvin Belli as he brings the Altamont concert into disastrous being. The brilliance of Gimme Shelter lies in the telling, or rather in the re-telling—it is the chronicle of a death foretold in flashback. As we watch Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts watching a cut of the film we are about to see, trying to make sense of the senseless murder of Meredith Hunter in slow motion and freeze frame, we read their faces for signs, projecting every sort of meaning onto them. Courtesy Janus Films. 92 min.