Watching "Charlie is My Darling"
Published on November 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

The Rolling Stones have got to be one of the better documented bands in cinema.

They perform in one of the greatest music documentaries ever, "Gimme Shelter," while great directors such as Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard have filmed the band. Somewhat amazingly, the Rolling Stones are also the subject of two intimate cinema verite documentaries that were never released theatrically. One of these documentaries, 1972's "Cocksucker Blues," depicts drug use, groupies and general, all-around debauchery, and can only be shown if the director, Robert Frank, is physically present. This weird arrangement is the result of a court order; the Stones felt that the documentary was embarrassing, while Frank wanted it released. The other documentary, "Charlie is My Darling," was shot during the band's two-day tour of Ireland in 1965, but made its world premiere at the Walter Reade Theater in New York City this fall.

The Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, which has led to a surge of interest in all things Stones. Last week "Charlie is My Darling" played in Schenectady, and the film will be released on DVD earlier this month. I happened to catch screening in Schenectady, and am happy to report that "Charlie is My Darling" looks fantastic. Filmed in a gritty-yet-lustrous black-and-white, the film clocks in at a trim 50 minutes, and capture the Stones just after "(I Can Get No) Satisfaction" was released. The band is still playing relatively small clubs, and their personal safety often seems to be in peril, as screaming fans mob the stage and line the streets hoping for a glimpse of the bands. The Stones come across as thoughtful and relatively young lads, amazed by their growing fame and intrigued by their place in the cultural firmament. Mick, in particular, seems sharp, focused and unusually candid.

The interviews with the Rolling Stones are insightful, but the real reason to see "Charlie is My Darling" is for the music, which showcases the band's raw, sexual energy, and makes it clear that the Stones were a daring and dangerous contrast to the poppy innocence and exuberance of the Beatles. Stones concerts bordered on near-riots, which is why it's nice to see the quieter rehearsal footage, where the band members smoked and sang and perfected their music. The Rolling Stones have been around so long it's easy to feel sick of them, but "Charlie is My Darling" remembers a time when they were one of the brightest up-and-coming bands around, and the sky was the limit.

Click here to read The New Yorker's Richard Brody's take on the film.

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