Heather Harris Reviews Docu ‘Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg’

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg - Courtesy Magnolia Pictures


Friends and friends of friends knew Anita Pallenberg, although I never was in her company. In those crowds, I would have been ignored anyway as “non-model material,” as a pal euphemistically put it.

She nonetheless fascinated me because she was a complete checklist of everything that I wasn’t, with exaggerated versions thereof: Blazingly confident, unquestionably beautiful, tall, well-connected, multilingual, thin, manipulative, financially secure, instant object of desire to all, physically strong, reckless, intimidating, hollow leg for substances, etc. etc. etc.

We did, it turns out, share a trait somewhat invisibly: A large mix-and-match wardrobe of highly interesting clothing of generally unique textiles so that we rarely resembled anybody else in the room, fashion-wise. Hey, I’ll grasp at any straw I can get!

Anita Pallenberg holding court – Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Therefore one expectedly and happily anticipated liking the new documentary by Magnolia Pictures “Catching Fire: the Story of Anita Pallenberg,” produced by her son Marlon Richards. And one does, despite the puzzling choice of actress narrating Pallenberg’s own words, my fellow American Scarlett Johansson. Pallenberg’s own voice was a mashup of Marlene Dietrich’s smoky German sophistication and Joan Greenwood’s seductive purr, were it a bit more Eurocentric. The narration is jarring, but doesn’t inhibit enjoyment of the film. The home movies footage throughout is nothing short of incredible.

The screen captures herein of real life and real role-playing are unannotated and presented for your viewing pleasure to whet the appetite: Watch this documentary, directed by Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill in the comfort of your own home when it’s released May 3, 2024. In images we see her evince a complexity far beyond her libertine persona familiar to music fans from her years with Keith Richards (and Brian Jones.)

Anita Pallenberg and Keith Richards – Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Make no mistake, Pallenberg’s absence in the band history would have begat a far different Rolling Stones. No matter how superior the music is in and of itself, do not underestimate the importance of strong visuals in modern popular music. We have five senses, and they all work together. And she plugged her volcanic life force directly into the Rolling Stones at just the right minute of the 1960s, which indeed helped codify The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band.

Other agree: Joan Greenwood was in fact the dubbed voice of Pallenberg’s Black Queen/Great Tyrant in “Barbarella!” Same tone and timbre, just done by the then entertainment world’s sexiest plummy voice.

Watch the trailer for ‘Catching Fire’ here:

Check out rock photographer Heather Harris’ rare images and insightful words at her compelling online publication Fast Film.