Originally filmed in December 1968, "The Rock and Roll Circus" was originally intended to be released as a television special. The special was filmed over two nights and featured not only ... See full summary »
In December of 1969, four months after Woodstock, the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane gave a free concert in Northern California, east of Oakland at Altamont Speedway. About 300,000 people came, and the organizers put Hell's Angels in charge of security around the stage. Armed with pool cues and knifes, Angels spent the concert beating up spectators, killing at least one. The film intercuts performances, violence, Grace Slick and Mick Jagger's attempts to cool things down, close-ups of young listeners (dancing, drugged, or suffering Angel shock), and a look at the Stones later as they watch concert footage and reflect on what happened. Written by
After viewing footage of the stabbing of Meredith Hunter police identified Alan Passaro, a local Hell's Angel, as the man who did the stabbing, arrested him and charged him with murder. At his trial, however, closer examination of the footage showed that Hunter had pulled a gun before Passaro pulled his knife. Passaro was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. See more »
You don't hassle with anybody in particular. You gotta keep your bodies off each other unless you intend love. People get weird, and you need people like the Angels to keep people in line. But the Angels also - you know, you don't bust people in the head for nothing. So both sides are fucking up temporarily; let's not keep FUCKING UP!
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Interesting but badly in need of insight and discussion from those involved
In 1969 the Rolling Stones were on their tour of America and planned to finish it with a surprise appearance at a free concert in Golden Gate park San Francisco. However when this fact came out at a Stone's press conference the numbers predicted to attend swelled and the gig had to be moved. After several changes and at the last minute, the Altamont Raceway was selected as the venue. The organisers asked for a chapter of the Hells Angels to be in charge of security. During the concert many scuffles broke out and one young man was stabbed to death. With the Stones themselves, the Maysles brothers look back over the concert in regards the performances and the wider impact the event had.
Although not quite as good as I had hoped it would be, this film was still pretty interesting as it captures "the end of the sixties" in the Altamont concert murder and the performances of the Stones in their prime. Although it was the former I had come for, the music was pretty good and the sound quality was surprisingly good. The one big complaint I have about the footage from all the Stone's performances is that I had to assume that the rest of them were on stage with Jagger because the camera stays tight on him and never leaves him for long. It is a bit annoying but I suppose it doesn't affect the music.
The most gripping part of the film though is the actual events around the Altamont concert itself. The build up is interesting because you can see the seeds of chaos being planted in the planning stage with the "secret" coming out being followed by the last minute planning and general disorganisation. This is followed by the concert itself which gradually becomes more and more chaotic. It is gripping to watch the fights break out and see things spiralling out of control it is impressive how well the footage came out. Having seen Salesman, I knew the Maysles' tended to sit back and just film their subjects but this only works if you can get them to speak or emote. Sadly here Mick and Keith simply watch the concert footage and, aside from looking a bit shocked and asking a few questions they don't say anything. Certainly there is nothing approaching insight or discussion from anyone. Although it is possible to draw your own conclusions from the footage to a degree, it cries out for discussion and reflection which is not forthcoming.
Without this it is nowhere near as interesting or valuable as it should have been. The performances make it worth seeing and watch the farcical organisation translation into a violent and chaotic concert is an interesting experience. Although their fly-on-the-wall technique is respected amongst filmmakers, I did find myself wishing that someone other than the Maysles' had made this film.
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