February 10th, 2005

In a Class By Itself

Rather than discuss clips from Gimme Shelter in my documentary course today, I showed portions of D.A. Pennebaker's Monterey Pop, now available as an awesome three-DVD Criterion release, and Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil. My nostalgia for the 1960s has been revived. While many of the concert-goers in Gimme Shelter look downright ugly, the ones featured in Monterey Pop are generally appealing. Dress the starry-eyed blondes in the paisley and thin-striped attire of their male companions and you'd come pretty close to my ideal of beauty. Having watched Nico: Icon last week with Sami, I realize that I just described that dressless chanteuse before she crossed over into the realm of the Sleep God. Coming back to Monterey Pop, though, let me state, for the record, that I would rather have been there than almost anywhere. My taste for psychedelia may be the product of the 1980s revivalism rather than firsthand experience, but that doesn't make it any weaker. As for the Godard, how can you not love a film that intersperses shots of Mick Jagger teaching Brian Jones how to play a song on the guitar with French-accented blacks reading treatises in an automobile graveyard? I don't think I've ever taught a class in which I reveled so unapologetically in my own taste preferences, nor one in which I conveyed my own research interest of the moment without worrying about whether I was going over my students' heads. But I have a feeling that today's session worked. Like the cinéma vérité documentarists of the 1960s, I don't know where this experiment is headed. The raw footage, however, shows a lot of promise.
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    a memory of "Wild Thing" a la Hendrix