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gimme shelter transcends being just a music documentary. yes, the rolling stones perform on stage and their music is used throughout the documentary. but, unlike most other documentaries, the music isn't really the purpose here. rather, the music serves as a mechanism to explore and document the milieu of the counterculture of the 60's.
following the rolling stones on a tour with special emphasis on the free altamont concert and the events surrounding that, the events here perfectly represent the culture of the time, especially once the maysles document the crowd at the concert itself. they tap into the "direct cinema" movement of the time, documenting things in real time and allowing things to happen naturally, rather than use interviews or other such techniques that other documentaries often employ. as a result, we are submerged into the culture and the events and we come to an understanding of it through the course of the film.
the maysles do some amazing things with the music of the rolling stones and the images that they capture in their footage. some of the images that they capture, when set to the soundtrack of the rolling stones, have an almost ethereal and poetic quality to them. in some ways, these images and sequences feel like they hold the essence of the counterculture era in america.
of course, this film is famous for containing actual footage of the meredith hunter stabbing at altamont. it is quite an amazing experience to be watching the stones performing and experience the camera pan over to a scuffle and catch a stabbing in the process.
this is a great documentary that transcends a simple music documentary. i'm not the biggest fan of the rolling stones myself but i find the surrounding events and the documentation of the culture of the time fascinating. there are plenty of compelling things about this documentary, even for those that aren't all that fond of the music itself.
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