It was some time ago that Criterion first announced their plans to jump into the HD world with their blu ray editions of select films from their past and upcoming catalog. I remember being particularly excited about the inclusion of Gimme Shelter on that original list. Now, more than a year later, the film has finally hit stores and like all of Criterion’s previous blu ray releases, it does not disappoint.
Directed by Albert and David Maysles and editor Charlotte Zwerin, Gimme Shelter is certainly a classic film that has been written about for years, both in a positive and negative manner (see Pauline Kael’s scathing review of the film here). There isn’t a whole lot to add that hasn’t already been more eloquently put to paper by ‘the pro’s', but I will say this; whenever somebody asks me why I love documentary films so much, I always come back to a certain moment in Gimme Shelter that for me, epitomizes the excitement of documentary filmmaking. Specifically, the infamous Altamont Speedway performance and the climax of the film, in which the Hell’s Angel’s turn sour and start fighting the crowd. One of the greatest shots of the film finds a hot headed member of the Angel’s staring down Mick Jagger with a terrifying intensity. The gravity of the situation is evident when the filmmakers choose to relegate the charismatic star of the film to an out-of-focus foreground object, focusing instead on the faces of crowd and the furious Angels. When the event turns deadly, the entire film shifts in its foundation and ends up accidentally defining the end of the 60′s.
Blu ray fans won’t be disappointed with the transfer of the film. The grain is completely intact and the colours are as vibrant as ever, giving the disc a faithful film-like presentation. The extras mirror those of the original standard definition release, including a great commentary track featuring Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin and Stanley Goldstein, along with some bonus performance footage and excerpts from the original KSAN Radio Altamont wrap up show. A must-have for Stones fans and documentary fans alike! Indulge!!