Home Reviews Film Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg movie review (2024)

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg movie review (2024)

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg movie review (2024)

Like any number of recent bio-docs, the filmmakers use archival footage, film clips, photographs, and interviews with those who knew her, including director Volker Schlöndorff, her children Marlon and Angela, and even Keith Richards himself, to craft a surface-level reassessment of Pallenberg’s life. An audio clip from similarly sidelined icon Marianne Faithful states, “Neither of us wanted to be with them because we wanted their power. We had our own power.” Yet, the documentary mostly anchors Pallenberg’s life around her time with The Rolling Stones.

A quick blast to the past sets up Pallenberg’s youth as a self-described “wild child” who grew up with conservative Italian-German parents who lost everything during WWII. This prelude tells us how deeply her childhood during the war affected her behavior. Still, this thread is abandoned later in the doc, aside from one assertion that she and Richards understood each other because they were both children during the war. 

The rest of the documentary follows her whirlwind life after coming to America in 1963 and befriending the downtown art scene, which included Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Allen Ginsberg. “I loved the feeling of culture exploding,” she says about her time in New York City. We get a laundry list of miscellaneous jobs she performed without much exploration of exactly what she hoped to express as an artist. 

Instead, we get a very detailed re-telling of how she met the Rolling Stones and fell in love with Brian Jones, whom she described as her “doppelganger.” This was a mutually destructive, co-dependent relationship filled with drugs (and eventually violence) from Jones. This section of her life is illustrated with heaps of archival material that adds a cool sheen to everything, smoothing over its lack of any actual substance. 

One of the few times we learn anything about Pallenberg as an artist comes from director Schlöndorff’s stories of making “Degree of Murder” with her. This then transitions into a wonderful discussion of her larger-than-life talent as “The Great Tyrant” in the camp classic “Barbarella.” Of all the talking heads, Schlöndorff appears to be the only one interested in who Pallenberg was as an artist and keeping that part of her legacy alive. 


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