Gimme Shelter: Cautionary Tale or Blueprint for a Punk Carnival?


  • Peter Stapleton University of Otago



Gimme Shelter (Maysles, Maysles, and Zwerin 1970), which documents The Rolling Stones’ 1969 US tour, is widely regarded as the last of the 1960s rockumentaries. Paradoxically, its chaotic final scenes at the band’s Altamont concert would also unwittingly provide a blueprint for the ‘punkumentary’, a subgenre of films that expressed punk’s revolt against mainstream rock culture at the end of the 1970s. Drawing upon the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, I wish to describe how the punkumentary’s subversion of the rock documentary hinged upon its aesthetic embrace of the very carnivalesque and anti-chronotopic elements, which had torn apart the 1960s counterculture’s utopian dream in Gimme Shelter’s Altamont scenes. In this respect, the punkumentaries destabilise the normative time-space associated with the rock documentary. Moreover, as an aesthetic and political expression of the very phenomenon they document, their subversion of the rock documentary is explicitly embodied.

Author Biography

Peter Stapleton, University of Otago

Peter Stapleton is currently a PhD student at Otago University, New Zealand.


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