Monday, May 16, 2011

At the End of the Performance


The End of Performance, originally uploaded by deanv41.

Two of my favorite movies ever involve The Rolling Stones, though i have never identified as a diehard fan. Albert & David Maysles' 1969-'70 documentary Gimme Shelter, firstly for its filmcraft, but also the spirit of its age, of sex, violence and intrigue that permeate it. The band never sounded better or more sinister. The movie's arc and its presentation have a Film Noir vibe, cutting to the chase at the beginning and reconstructing events subsequently. It's devastating and beautiful in equal measures. The Maysles' cast back to the early days of the 1969 tour, hooking up with opener Ike & Tina Turner, the bombastic San Francisco lawyer, Melvin Belli, has a star turn as the monomaniacal über-Lawyer whose involvement only serves to create more wild energy, all the way through the wicked dénouement of Altamont in the windy Bay Area Hills, Gimme Shelter hits every filmic button. It marks, indelibly, the end of a decade like no other, steeped as it was in colonial war, psychedelic disturbances, fights for freedom, self-determination, and competing, unruly visions for The Future.

Gimme Shelter Michigan Theater (biggie size)
The other Stones-related film in my cannon is Performance, starring James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg and Michèle Breton. It is THE classic troubled Rock Star flick with none of the wincing. It's also a Gang Land thriller, a 60s experimental film landmark, and a trip through the best and worst of the Drug Culture of that era. It reeks of the Occult. Filmed by Nicholas Roeg, whose demonic and holy vision in cinema during the 1960s and 70s is a glowing touchstone, Performance vibrates differently each decade. Since its controversial creation in 1968, when the studio considered destroying the negatives only relenting in 1970 to limited circulation, the movie has over time grown a true cult.
Today, it's spot on the 20th Century's film list is more assured. Within it are spells, books, impossible crossroads, transsexuality, guns and magistrates, London and the electric blues, all in service to one all-consuming Dark Star at the end of his first life, waiting for dangerous fission to make his audience react one last time.

I give it Five Black Stars.

"Memo from Turner" by Mick Jagger with Ry Cooder, 1968.

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