Anita Pallenberg & Catching Fire

Catching Fire, the new film about the life of Anita Pallenberg, begins with Anita’s own words: “I’ve been called a witch, a slut, a murderer.”

Anita Pallenberg & Catching Fire

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Catching Fire, the new film about the life of Anita Pallenberg, begins with Anita’s own words: “I’ve been called a witch, a slut, a murderer.” and it was with that opening salvo that I understood exactly what this movie was going to do. 

It’s a line taken from Anita’s unpublished memoir, which, in the film, is read by Scarlet Johansson. There’s a shot of a room with a desk that could have been from some ancient palace, but it was Anita’s office and the walls are lined with photographs of her and photographs of Keith. The film cuts to a man who even without titles could be no one other than Marlon Richards, Keith and Anita’s first child – he vividly resembles both of his parents – and he explains that after his mother died, he and his family were going through her papers, looking for legal documents, and one of the things they found was a perfectly typed manuscript of her memoir. And, so, here we are. 

Anita Pallenberg was a survivor, a trendsetter, a fashion icon, a muse, a glamorous representative of London in the Swinging 60’s. Her family lost everything in World War II and she parlayed her looks and her love of American rhythm and blues to escape her conservative Italian family to come to the States. She got a job as a model, she hung out at the Factory, she socialized with artists. She got sent to Germany on an assignment and one of her friends dared her to kidnap one of the Rolling Stones. Keith was shy, Mick was – “not dancing yet, he was just shaking maracas” (Anita’s words, the world’s most elegant diss of Mick Jagger ever) – and then there was Brian. Brian was beautiful. She had hashish. All she had to do was offer. 

Anita was fabulous but Anita was vilified. She was gorgeous but she was dangerous. She was accused of both using and destroying the Rolling Stones. Growing up as a rock and roll fan in the Seventies you never wanted to be compared to someone like Anita Pallenberg, except that we all secretly did. We wanted to dress like her, we wanted to look like her, we wanted to have that kind of glamorous and sensational life. She was there, in the middle of it all. And then it all fell apart, mostly because of drug addiction.