Charlie, world-preemed [premiered] at the just concluded Mannheim film festival, is the first pic on Britain's Rolling Stones. Technically, it demonstrates what its creator, 29-year-old Peter Whitehead, describes as "the method of direct cinema." Although reviews on the outcome of this unconventional documentary will be varied, there is hardly any doubt that Charlie will stir interest. After all, the Rolling Stones are "no nobodies." Film gives a good insight into the behind-the-scenes life of this idolized beat group, has a good number of interesting shots and some funny moments, and in a way reveals what price the Stones have actually to pay for their popularity. As much as they may want them, there don't seem to be any dull moments for them outside their homes.
It is said that it was the success of Whitehead's Wholly Communion (incidentally, this film was also at the Mannheim fest; it got one of the major awards there) documentary on the recital of beat poetry before 5,000 [this number varies; some sources say there were 7,000 in attendance] people at London's Albert Hall last summer, which led to the invitation by Andrew Oldham, manager of the Stones, to make a film during the two-day tour of Ireland. The only conditions were said to be no tripods, no lights, one camera, two days, four concerts and no one knowing what would happen, film was as much a happening as the unforeseen incidents that happen any day in the life of the Stones. Whitehead had only one assistant and one sound engineer at his disposal.
The direct cinema method, more or less like cinema verite, has a tendency to make a film rather jumpy and jerky, even to the extent of making the conventional viewer restless. As per the musical presentations in Charlie, the conventional beat music lovers may find this pic doesn't quite cover their [End Page 194] expenses. But Charlie cannot be regarded as a conventional film. It is a departure from the cliché inasmuch as this is an honest film, at least in the sense that nothing was rehearsed or premeditated and the interviews were spontaneous. (Film's strength relies on the challenge it imposes on each individual Rolling Stone to display his "genuine" self behind the mask that every one of this group has to put on for his life in the public eye.) Their philosophy and kindred thoughts on life may not be very interesting, but it is certainly interesting what some of the hour's most cited and most idolized showbiz headliners think and what and how they talk. In this respect, film can be regarded as a welcome document even for those who normally don't go for beat music and teenage faves.
The title, of course, refers to Charlie (Watts), the tall, taciturn drummer of the crew.
October 26, 1966 [End Page 195]