Albert Maysles PATRICK MacFADDEN - Essay

PATRICK MacFADDEN

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

On a Saturday in early December of 1969 The Rolling Stones completed their American tour with an open-air concert at a speedway track in Altamont….

[The] Hell's Angels were retained to preserve law and order at Altamont, amiably brutal condottieri from the badlands around San Jose, come to protect the princes of the new Renaissance…. The casualty list became a snakedance…. Finally, one 18-year-old black, Meredith Hunter, bearing a gun and pursuing some lonely odyssey inside his own head, fell under the knives of the Angels and was hacked to death.

Of all this, Altamont and the preceding concert tour, Albert and David Maysles, co-directing with Charlotte Zwerin, have made Gimme Shelter, the title borrowed from a Stones song, a film which, in its own becoming, moves consistently towards that rare condition in which the subject-object hiatus merges and blurs and is gone. (p. 39)

Moods are caught and deftly played, one against another: the desperate gaiety of a vulnerable girl in the audience, who knows something's gone wrong, but continues to blow soap bubbles from an antic pipe. The bubble floats out over the hordes, the music investing it with all that might have been had the promises been kept. And then the bubble disappears…. And always, inevitably, [Mick] Jagger, by turns Byronic-demonic, poete maudit floating high in the red haze of a purgatorial filter, later petulant...

(The entire section is 499 words.)