Posted by: lindsayhumbert | March 9, 2009

Gimme Shelter

Gimme ShelterThe documentary Gimme Shelter allowed the viewer to almost feel as though they were at the Rolling Stone’s free concert at Altamont.  Through the pure observation techniques of direct cinema, directing brothers Albert and David Maysles were able to capture moments that were both vivid and real. During the scenes from the Altamont concert, there was more footage of the audience than of the Rolling Stones themselves performing.

Such moments, particularly of actions by audience members, include people:
+walking great distances from their cars to stage
+climbing on the scaffolding
+hallucinating or otherwise being under the influence of LSD or various drugs
+urinating publicly
+yelling about a woman giving birth
+collecting money for an organization
+opting to be nude
+requiring medical attention
+trying or succeeding to get onstage and pester the Stones
+being restrained by the Hells Angles
+crowd surfing
+with painted faces
+blowing bubbles
+smoking and drinking
+taking pictures with cameras
Most of these are actions that still occur at modern concerts, and their inclusion in the documentary truly helps recreate the concert for viewers.

The ending of the documentary also sticks out in my mind. It seems to end on a bad note, with the death of an audience member, and the somber faces on the Stones as they watch the footage of the stabbing. However, following that and closing out the documentary before the credits roll, are shots of audience members walking towards the concert. With the camera shooting into the setting sun, the walkers are bathed in a golden light. These visuals provide an almost redemptive or consoling feel to a film that, otherwise, was somewhat of a downer as it proved that no good deed (such as a free concert) goes unpunished (and is more hassle that its worth). In any case, the footage allows the documentary to conclude on a slightly higher note than closing with just Mick Jagger’s solemn face.



  1. very interesting look at the film – good job picking up on the symbols and what they mean…

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