Fab Film

Forty years ago, Al Maysles met the Beatles

"The Beatles movie is the upside, and Gimme Shelteris the downside," Maysles says. "That, I knew all along. When I think of one I think of the other. Then the next thought is, when two things happen at the same time, people tend to look for a causal relationship, and I think the Stones have taken unnecessary and improper blame for those events simply because those lyrics were the perfect orchestration for what took place. If there was no music for that movie, if it had not been about a band, and people asked, 'Who should we hire for the documentary?' they would have said, 'The Stones would be perfect.'"

The Beatles (and the Stones) could not have asked for better filmmakers to act as their shadows and reflections; Al Maysles likes to say that he gets the movies he does because he "empathizes" with his subjects, be they would-be presidents (Primary, in which the camera's trained on John Kennedy) or door-to-door Bible hawkers (Salesmen) or teeny-pop stars on the verge of a nervous breakdown (3 Days in Mexico, about, of all people, Britney Spears). He doesn't judge, doesn't ridicule, doesn't gush, but merely looks through the viewfinder, trying to make history as much as capture it before it disappears into the ether.

"Every time I see the Beatles film I am reshooting it in my head," Maysles says. "I am moving with every single moment. I must say that as I am reshooting it, my choices are not any different, and that is more satisfying than anything else. We were, and I still am, just so intent on getting everything that's going to help, selecting every moment and looking for the next. When the camera has a perceptive eye, there are things it catches that become obviously necessary for the story. Every moment is significant. Every one. "

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