Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1970. Maysles Films, Penforta. Cinematography by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Gary Weis. Produced by Ronald Schneider. Film Editing by Joanne Burke, Robert Farren, Ellen Giffard, Kent McKinney.
Often labeled the greatest rock and roll film of all time and it is easy to see why. Woodstock, Monterey Pop and The Last Waltz all have much more music footage, but the advantage of Gimme Shelter is what a superb job that the Maysles brothers, here establishing themselves as a box office name in documentary filmmaking, do in weaving behind-the-scenes footage with the goings-on on stage. The film covers the Rolling Stones‘ 1969 tour which culminated in a historic free concert at San Francisco’s Altamont Speedway. We learn from preparations that the event almost didn’t happen (the venue is difficult to secure) and then ends in tragedy when a member of Hells Angels, who run a sort of ragged security for the band on stage, stabs a member of the crowd during a particularly rowdy outbreak. Skillfully photographed and edited, the music sounds terrific and there’s just enough personality bits from the members of the band to qualify as satisfying without going overboard on the information front.