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Customer Review

on December 29, 2000
"Gimme Shelter" is a lot of things. It's one of the greatest rock and roll films ever made. It's one of the greatest documentaries ever made. It's one of the best glimpses of a moment in time ever recorded, and it's a lasting crystallization of the point in time when the ideals and dreams of the 60's died and the hedonism and self-preservation of the 70's kicked in.
The Maysles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerin are famous for making documentaries about bible salesmen, old women in decaying mansions, and artists creating art. "Gimme Shelter" is doubly a shock because these somber and almost grim documentarians have been able to put across a rock and roll film that gives you a feeling of the power of music and the freshness of the spirit that the Stones brought to the table. In these moments, captured in 1969, you can see the point where the Stones make the step from rock stars to phenomena, and you see where the wall between artist and audience spawns from.
"Gimme Shelter" follows the Stones from touring and recording to their free concert at Altamont Speedway. The film breaks with documentary tradition and gives us a skewed timeline, interspersing concert footage and recording sessions with newscasts about the aftermath of Altamont, the Stones in the screening room watching footage of Altamont, and scenes of negotiating the final details before Altamont goes down. The Altamont concert itself is a marvel to behold, to witness what was captured by the gang of camera operators wandering through the crowd (including George Lucas). From drug dealers to painted hippies, Hells Angels to fathers and sons, from whimsy to terror. "Gimme Shelter" follows the show from it's chaotic first moments of parking wherever, ingesting whatever and acting however, to scenes of fast and random violence springing up around the stage as well as on stage. All of which culminates in the murder of a man right in front of the stage. All captured on beautiful, grainy 16mm with no tricks and no cheats.
The DVD is packed with great supplementary materials. A commentary from David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, deleted scenes (including a great backstage scene of Ike, Tina and Mick hanging out), the full excerpts of the KSAN radio broadcast which is used occasionally in the film, trailers, photos and a small feature on the restoration of the print.
If you've seen "Gimme Shelter" before, you've noticed that the sound and image lack a lot. Criterion has completely restored the visuals to crystal clarity and given the audio tracks a much-needed shot in the arm. This film has never looked so good and never sounded so good.
The Stones have been the focus of several movies and a gang of media coverage, attempting to look beyond the gamefaces and see the real Stones. Very few have succeeded. "Gimme Shelter" is filled with moments where the Stones forget to pose, forget to put up a pretense and respond with real shock, real anger and real regret. This is the anti-"Woodstock." Besides all that, you'll rarely see the Stones in such top form and sounding and looking so good. If the shots of the band in action don't get you, then the shots of the crowd alone are worth the price of admission.
Rock films are seemingly a dime a dozen, and no one tends to care enough to make them real FILMS. "Gimme Shelter" is the antidote to the callous rock film tossaway, a film with as much brains as attitude, a film with a message as well as a soundtrack, and most of all, a film so much greater and so much deeper than the surface could ever lead you to believe.
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