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Anita Pallenberg documentary ‘Anita’ in the words of directors Svetlana Zill and Alexis Bloom

Anita Pallenberg documentary ‘Anita’ in the words of directors Svetlana Zill and Alexis Bloom

From the Business Doc Europe site:
In 2017, Marlon Richards and his friend Simon Morley were cleaning out the London flat of his mother after she died. As they went through her possessions, they stumbled on piles of her writing and photos that he didn’t know existed.

Richards’ mum was Anita Pallenberg, the German-Italian model, movie star and muse to the Rolling Stones. His father is Keith Richards, the Stones’ guitarist and co-founder.

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“He [Marlon] found a whole bunch of her stuff. He didn’t know it existed,” Alexis Bloom [who has co-directed the new doc Anita, sold by Cinetic and world premiering May 22 in Cannes Classics], explains. “He said to Simon, my god, look at all this writing, look at all these photos. He turned to Simon and said somebody should make a film about my mum.”

Morley immediately suggested that Bloom would be just the woman for the job. Together with her partner Fisher Stevens, she had recently directed Bright Lights (2016), a very well received documentary about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds that had screened in Cannes Classics. Marlon eventually contacted her. “He wrote a beautiful email about his mother and his relationship with his mother and how fierce she was, but also how resourceful.”

Marlon described to Bloom how, as a kid, he was caught with her in a snow storm. A blizzard was raging. Somehow, she had the presence of mind to dig a hole for them both and covered them up until the storm passed. “Who thinks about that? This was before Bear Grylls days,” Bloom says of the ever resourceful Pallenberg.

Svetlana Zill, who worked alongside Bloom at Jigsaw Productions, Alex Gibney’s company in New York, came on board the venture as co-director.

Both women were already aware of Anita Pallenberg. After all, Anita was a seminal figure in the hedonistic rock and roll era of the late 1960s. It wasn’t just Richards who had been obsessed by her. So, at different times, were fellows band members Mick Jagger and the late Brian Jones.

“I grew up listening to the Stones obsessively when I was younger. I watched Performance in college. I knew that she was striking and that she seemed really fierce. I didn’t know a ton about her beyond that. When Alexis said that there were these intimate materials and memoirs, I was very much intrigued,” Zill remembers.

The film features contributions from Pallenberg’s three children with Keith Richards, and with Keith himself.

Bloom was taken aback by Pallenberg’s intelligence. “I didn’t know much about her. I was brought into it [the film] by her family.” Everyone talked about Pallenberg’s beauty. What was far less discussed was how bright she was. “Anyone you talked to who knew her well [said] she was really smart,” Bloom notes.
(Ref. anita pallenberg documentary)

“She was very much a keen observer of people,” Zill adds. “She was very strong but like any human was also vulnerable and had insecurities.”

anita pallenberg cannes 2023 documentary

Pallenberg went through periods of heroin addiction. She could be self-destructive and was a very volatile personality. “When you look back at women of the time, it doesn’t feel like a big deal to do what she did, but she left home at 19, went to New York. There was no family support. They were all very discouraging and felt that she brought shame on the family,” Bloom says of her relatives’ attitude toward her acting and modelling career.

“She was doing what very few women did, casting off her family, casting off everyone and just saying I am going to be a self-made woman. I am going to make my own money. I am going to travel the world. I am going to hang out with whoever I want to hang out with. I am going to gobble up culture voraciously.”

It wasn’t an easy journey. Pallenberg was trying to “stake her own territory” in a very chauvinistic world. “You needed to be tougher than the men,” Bloom says of her subject. “She had bigger balls than any of them,” one of the interviewees notes in the documentary.

On movie sets, producers tried to push her round. She wasn’t always paid properly – or, indeed, at all. “You hook up with people more famous than you and you get crushed under the machine. Nobody really cares whether you work or not or whether you are fulfilled. With the Stones, a lot of people think you should just be happy being an appendage and I think that was probably difficult for her. She had her own life force.”

Much of the home movie footage in the documentary has never been seen before. Parts were used in a music video made after Anita’s death by her old friend, Marianne Faithfull.

“It was under the bed,” Bloom says of this hoard of material. “Mick, Keith and Anita went on trips together. The camera went to Switzerland with Keith and Anita. Anita gave it to a character who is in the film, a lovely man called Sandro Sursock…She said Sandro, take this, it won’t get destroyed with you. He took it and kept it for decades and then gave it back to Anita I think decades after. Somebody lost it in a taxi,” the co-director explains the charmed life of Pallenberg’s home movie camera which somehow stayed intact in a period in which chaos and destruction ran rife. “Not much survives the rock and roll life.”

Scarlett Johansson narrates the doc in Anita’s words. The filmmakers chose her not because her accent was right – it wasn’t – but she could capture Pallenberg’s mystique. Keith Richards, when the directors finally managed to get him on camera, was “lovely, incredibly tender about Anita, really plain spoken, voluble and genuine.”

Anita’ was made through SK Global Entertainment with support from Bloomfish Productions. Cinetic picked up sales for the film before Cannes.
(Ref. anita pallenberg documentary)

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