Gimme Shelter from Biker Gangs

Seriously. Lots of shit went down.

When the Maysles brothers made a deal with the Rolling Stones to follow them around and film them on tour there was no way of knowing what would go down at Altamount and the free concert held there.  The film is vey observatory: they just stand behind the cameras and tape what goes on.  Interaction? Nah, but you can tell they had to change what they set out to do.  The film is half Rolling Stones concert footage, and the other half is types of interviews, press conferences, phone discussions, etc.  It is not edited in order: the only way to know where they are in time is by listening to the actual conversations being had.

This fascinates me because these guys just wanted to follow the band around and gather footage.  Biker Gang violence wasn’t in the contract, but how can they not take advantage of that. They were a part of history.  Very early in the film we get a blip of the Hell’s Angel phone conference and for the longest time this is the only reference we get, because aside from performance footage the next half of the movie’s press all takes place BEFORE the event.  Halfway through we arrive at the venue and start to follow a more A to B way of “plotting.”

I think the film Gimme Shelter really shows what documentary filmmakers have to work with depending on the form of their film, in this case observational.  The purpose changes for them, yet the audience doesn’t know what the initial purpose may have been so it doesn’t matter.


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