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Gimme Shelter Reviews

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TheDudeLebowski65
TheDudeLebowski65

Super Reviewer

April 6, 2013
Riveting, thought provoking, chaotic and above all unforgettable, Gimme Shelter is a flawless documentary about the tragic free concert at the Altamont Speedway on December 6th, 1969 that was held by The Rolling Stones. The concert's security was The Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, and they brutalized concert goers and members of various bands. Throughout the concert, The Hell's Angels stabbed a concert goer who had a gun. The footage you see here is unlike anything you've ever seen. Brilliantly shot with camera work that is raw, gritty and in your face. Here is a documentary take puts you right in the middle of the chaos and for that it is truly an outstanding piece of work. This is a concert that should have gone off without a hitch, but it didn't. What should have been a fun day quickly turned into a nightmare. The concert goers didn't deserve to be treated as such, and it is truly a disturbing, yet necessary picture that is among the finest rock documentaries ever made. I really loved the film, and I felt that it is an important picture that is brilliant, flawless in its execution and it shows something that you would normally never see. Altamont was a nightmare, disaster and utter chaos of that concert. Only Woodstock 1999 would be just as bad, even worse. But before Woodstock 99, there was Altamont. Gimme Shelter is a film experience that you won't forget, but be warned, this film is intense and the footage is real, all too real. The concert proved one thing, a lack of inexperienced security can ruin something as fun and memorable concert. Violent bikers are not a good idea for security and this film shows exactly that. Gimme Shelter is easily the finest rock documentary ever made, and it shows the ugly side of what can go wrong during a concert. Truly memorable.
Lucas M

Super Reviewer

August 2, 2012
Scary and insane, this catastrophic show it's very good directed by the Maysles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerin. Gimme Shelter is an agonizing documentary with unforgettable footages of a tragic Woodstock, with a powerful shock of different minds and behavior. Shocking and unique.
Michael S

Super Reviewer

November 15, 2007
A stunning time capsule, capturing it's era perfectly. At times you forget that it is at it's core a Rolling Stones concert film, due to the fact that a lot of time is dedicated to observing the setup and crowd (hippy excess and Hell's Angels confusion/brutality). The fact that the Maysles' were able to capture on film what they did (the infamous stabbing and the end of flower-child ideals) is nothing short of extraordinary. Then there's the Stones! A must for fans of Jagger and company and flawless documentary filmmaking.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

July 14, 2007
Maysels do it again.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

April 17, 2007
The stabbing at Altamont was pretty crazy and is the highlight of Gimme Shelter. Another reason to watch is the part where Mick Jagger asks the crowd, "who wants to fight" in some reverse psychological way. Hilarious. But if you take only one thing away from Gimme Shelter, it will be that The Rolling Stones were not and are not a live band. All in all, pretty anticlimactic.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

November 30, 2010
Well, it would appear as though they have, for decades, exploited musicians at a height in their popularity to attract moviegoers to slam-bang music documentaries, as well as to remind them of the muscians in question's latest single, by making that single the title of the film. Of course, that's just what you'd think from looking at the title and time of release of The Rolling Stone's "Gimme Shelter". As the critics and audience will tell you, they still had plenty of integrity during rock's early years, so this in-depth documentary on... popular people just hanging out and occasionally playing at a concert is anything but a fanservice cash-grab. Wow, they really will call anything old a masterpiece, because even though this film ultimately has genuine intentions, and I guess enough so to where it's likely that it's not soley a cash-grab, I doubt that the producers didn't have a hand in getting this thrown-together project out to the public just in time for the audience to hit up their local record story. So, yeah, as you can tell, I'm not as crazy about this film as everyone else and their grandmother. Oh, I'm sorry people, but you will have to forgive me if I don't absolutely love an hour-and-a-half long stream of The Rolling Stones literally doing nothing but nothing in a documentary that has no real point or, well, plot, for that matter. I appreciate the Stones and Gimme Shelter has got to be among their best songs, but I don't love them that much (Sorry, Scorsese), which isn't to say that this documentary is bad, because it is actually a pretty decent effort, yet hardly spotless.

Most every rockumentary of this fly-on-the-wall formula at the time were really nothing more than extensive meditations upon nothing but the subjects hanging out and occasionally playing in concert, with no real narrative focus or central point, and something like Bob Dylan's "Dont Look Back" is among the most notable examples, as it literally was nothing but nothing. This film is not simply superior than the still pretty decent "Dont Look Back", but relatively upstanding as a rockumentary of the described type, as I was exaggerating when I said that this film is nothing but nothing, as it does ultimately have a point, however minor, as well as some spots of following the preparations for and the aftermath of the notorious Altamont Free Concert, thus giving the documentary a passable degree of narrative, however in-the-background it may be, being that it is not all that extensively focused upon or developed. This lack of focus and exposition upon the narrative - such as it is - not only detracts from its prevalence, but also lands a heavy blow to its engagement value, and it's not all that interesting in the first place. To make matters worse, although the underwhelming and uninspired narrative is tossed in here and there, its incorporation - however limited it may be - drives considerable unevenness within the film's general and most primarily focused upon formula of simply observing the casual life and musical performances of the band (and even the lunatics who go to the concerts) which, as I've said before, is a heavily flawed formula that has not and can absolutely never work all that well, especially in here, where when it gets to doing nothing, it goes all out with the unrelenting nothingness, so, of course, the excess footage within this documentary really does nothing more than dull it down. The film is uneven, primarily aimless and, of course, underwhelming, which may not be the best word to use, considering that the miss-or-miss formula of this documentary was very much expected to bore, so there's not much disappointment here. Still, again, this film remains relatively upstanding among the batch of boring documentarian studies upon musicians doing little to nothing. That is, of course, not saying much, yet it is still something to say, for although this film doesn't at all knock dead, it is kept going by quite a few notable aspects, particularly when it comes to technical value.

Being that this is a documentary from 1970, saying that the sound design is truly remarkable shouldn't sound all that impressive nowadays, and understandably so, as the sound quality on the film has, sure enough, dated to an extent. However, even by today's standards, the sound work remains pretty fantastic, with much dialogue and every bit of music coming in smoothly and clearly, with a boastful broadness that really grips you and helps in making the documentary - especially during its musical spots - genuinely immersive. As for the more visual aspects of the film, such as the footage, the camerawork isn't all that impressive and is even kind of sloppy at points, not really tossing into the scene all that deeply. However, the lighting that the Maysles brothers provide, while also dated, remains fairly handsome in its color that really emphasizes the tones of the environment, as well as the flashiness of the concert experience. Still, with all of this complimenting of the technical value behind the filming of the concert, what remains to be discussed are the actual concerts, which aren't even close to some of the best you can find in a concert film, yet are still pretty nifty, with a lot of personality in the performers to compliment they're awesome jams that really fire this film up. When the film is not boasting the concert experience, or even its technical value as much, it's simply charming in its simplicity, decidedly not to where it can drown out the dull spots, yet still enough for you to be kept going. Again, the film is an uneven mess of limited intrigue, when it's not as dull, aimless and ultimately pointless as other exmaples of the fly-on-the-wall type of documentary structure, yet what aspects it does accel at really carry it past all of its faults and make it quite watchable, if not just plain enjoyable.

Overall, the scarce narrative within the documentary is hardly interesting, not doing much more than driving unevenness within the film, considering that its main focus is, well, nothing but as much nothingness as you can have with concert footage, thus leaving the film rather dull and ever-so aimless for the longest of periods, yet with sharp technical value complimenting the transportiveness of the film - especially during the immerisve concert footage - and a charm in the simplicity keeping you going through all of the nothingness, "Gimme Shelter" ultimately stands as a neatly stylish and generally enjoyable observation on the casual and work lives of The Rolling Stones, circa late '60s, as well as their notorious Altamont Free Concert.

2.5/5 - Fair
Ivan D

Super Reviewer

May 4, 2010
One word could actually summarize the experience of watching such documentary: Harrowing. It's a rare concert documentation that treats the music not as a testament of art in the rock n' roll scene, but more of an inaudible score to accompany the chaos. Even for rock purists, it's hard to appreciate The Rolling Stone's works amidst the anarchy, because rather than it(the songs) being the celebration of the music, it's a bitter taste not just in our mouths, but also for Mick Jagger's and his troupe, whose influence among the "hippie" culture has brought about this unexpected folly. There were many sequences of sheer absurdities that one would mistake some of it to be purely surrealist ones, but the scene that lingered in my mind was the shot of The Rolling Stones' helicopter's departure, as the "hippie" counterculturist desperately said their goodbyes to the leaving band. It is a scene reminiscent of the final shot of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead", and for once, I thought, the audiences of that fateful day was comparable to Romero's undead: Both animated by something beyond their control, but ultimately likes. After witnessing the horrors of "Gimme Shelter", I instantly had the desire to rewatch "This is Spinal Tap", just as how I liked to take a shower after watching "Salo".
Christopher B

Super Reviewer

February 8, 2008
The Hells Angel put an end to the love era at a Rolling Stones concert. Watching an accident just waiting to happen.
May 9, 2013
We know what is going to happen during the Stones' infmaous 1969 free concert at Altamount, and Gimme Shelter becomes so powerful partly because this attempt to capture a band on tour become a documentary about something much more disturbing. A film about a film, Gimme Shelter opens with the Stones watching the documentary that would have been released had events unfolded differently. We the viewers see two different things happening as we watch Gimme Shelter. We see the actual events leading up to and comprising the Altamont concert, but we also see the Stones and the filmmakers trying to make sense of what they caught on camera. And, ultimately, Gimme Shelter's title is rather apropos because it concerns the desire to flee from the dark truths revealed to us by the camera's unflinching gaze. We see the idealism of the 1960s die on camera as the day degenerates leading up to the final act of violence. Like watching a massive car crash with awesome music, Gimme Shelter is an unforgettable experience that reaveals not only the dark side of the 1960s ideology of free love and consciousness expansion but also the dark side of human nature....
shawnmiller2
April 16, 2012
Good insight into a 70's Superband, and how things of good intention can go drastically wrong if not planned for carefully...pretty much ended the Free Love era with a bang...
November 21, 2011
A doc that acts as an informative look at The Rolling Stones, the last days of the 60s, and changing attitudes and ideals.
dinahmoehum
January 4, 2011
It's not that great of a movie, but it's damn powerful if you look at it in the context of the social state of the US in these years. I'm still reeling from the images. A must see.
March 16, 2010
I'm not really a huge fan of the Stones, but jeez man, all they were trying to do was put on a free show and the freaking hippies had to ruin it because they were too wasted out of their minds to follow the damn rules, which were pretty basic: leave a small buffer zone between you and the performers, and don't climb the scaffolding. Oh, and don't bring a gun either.
August 9, 2009
This is one of the best Rock Documentaries I've ever seen. The editing and the pacing, it really plays and is structured like a proper Film. Plus some awesome Live footage from one of the greatest Rock Bands in their prime.
October 2, 2008
This film documents The Stones 1969 American tour.
It also documents hippies acting like assholes, a tweaked out guy charging the stage while firing a gun and ultimately getting stabbed to death and it documents everyone trying to wash their hands of it; The Stones, The Stones management and the festival organizer (who was overheard by a Rolling Stone reporter as saying to the Angels "Fuck the crowd, keep them away from the stage and equipment").
The Hell's Angels had worked security at The Stones concert in Hyde Park earlier that year without incident. They were hired at Altamont as cheap security, but as the crowd turned into assholes the Angels reacted as you would expect the Hell's Angels to react.
This film was actually used in court to aquit the Angel who was accused of murdering Meredeth Hunter.
Meredeth Hunter's death was the fault of the festival organizer, Hunter himself and The Rolling Stones for going on-stage over an hour late, as much as the Angels who were really just trying to protect themselves and everyone on the stage. Of course their way of reacting to a tweaker with a gun may be more extreme than some, but they are Hell's Angels. What reaction would you expect if you were to charge at them firing a gun? In the slow motion footage you do actually see a prospect diving and knocking the gun down and in doing so probably saving Mick Jagger's life. Then Jagger shows his gratitude by claiming he had nothing to do with it or them.

Altamont aside the movie also contains some footage of a less than stellar performance in New York City and a mobile recording of "Country Honk" (a country version of "Honky Tonk Women") somewhere in the South.
lunarlove98
June 11, 2008
I like this because The Flying Burrito Brothers are shown, if only for a few seconds, it was worth it just for that.
mikezillatron
January 5, 2008
"Spent a little time on the mountain, spent a little time on the hill, things went down we don't understand, I think it time we will" Robert Hunter.
SonnyLighstrome
November 25, 2007
An awesome concert film/look at stardom and how rock stars can stray from the real world in the light of real events. GREAT movie.
November 13, 2007
This documentary really is interesting to watch. The end where Mick Jagger watches the footage in shock and horror is very capativating.
rockgoddess20us
October 26, 2007
A great documentary that ends with the concert at altamont and the end of the flower child generation.
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