I don't think it is possible to be indifferent about the Rolling Stones, provided that you have had more than a cursory exposure to their music and celebrity over the last fifty years. Fifty years! Can this be true? I ask myself as I sit in the tiny darkened Northwest Film Forum in Seattle waiting to view, at last, "Charlie Is My Darling," and not indifferent at all to the passing of time nor to the Stones. Indeed so, fifty years, I think, as I notice that most of the people surrounding me in the theater have gray hair, even older than I am, out on a Thursday night to view a slice of rock n' roll history, excited.

If you are a Rolling Stones fan like I am, you have waited a long, long time to see "Charlie Is My Darling," a tour documentary directed by Peter Whitehead, shot at two concerts in Ireland in the Fall of 1965. Years of legal wrangling and hesitations over presentation combined with the need for the film to be completely scanned and restored left this document unseen by most until now, when it is released on DVD November 6th. Think of "Charlie Is My Darling" as the companion piece to the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" film except that that it's all real -- no scripts, no actors. It's an hour or so of what touring life was life for a white-hot band riding the crest of the British beat wave in that fleetingly-short time period before their fame led to isolation from any kind of normal lives at all, and the excesses and costs that went with it.

I spent most of the film smiling my face off, for "Charlie Is My Darling" turned out to be unexpectedly charming and just impossibly, ragingly cool. Seeing the Stones and manager/ boy Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham wedged in a hotel room working out the song that would become "Sitting On A Fence" is a fascinating glimpse into their creative process, and seeing Jagger and Richards bust out tipsy cover versions of Elvis, Fats Domino, and, yes, the Beatles, is hilarious. Those things alone would be amazing enough, but the live performances are simply jaw-dropping in the raw intensity of both band and fans. The restored sound quality for the concert scenes is pumped up and just sounds fantastic -- a thousand times better than any other early Stones live recordings I've ever heard -- and the band is just slamming away garage-punk style on songs like "The Last Time," "Down The Road Apiece," "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love," and of course, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." My gut reaction was to stand up and DANCE, but considering I was in a movie theater, I did not. But I really, really wanted to.

The baby-faced Irish teen fans of 1965 who were so shy and sweet on-camera in pre-show interviews turned into sweaty screaming maniac rioters, bodies tumbling and writhing in a desperate effort to get closer to the stage. Within ten minutes of each show, they succeeded, and one-by-one leapt up to tackle a Stone, kiss a Stone, dance next to a Stone, or grab the mic and yell in full, glorious, perfect rock n' roll insanity. All of them, I ponder, would be in their sixties or seventies now, if they are still alive. What a gas, gas, gas.

There are short interview pieces with each member of the band inset throughout the film, and it is a reminder how people truly are who they are throughout their lives. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman are the regular sods, still a bit dazed and embarrassed by their new fame. Keith Richards is nearly all of the time doing something musical -- prettily playing on an acoustic guitar backstage, pounding out early rock songs on a found piano, singing harmonies and lyrics back to Jagger, honing new compositions. When a giggly young girl plucks out a hair off the back of his head as a souvenir, he just glares at her and walks away. Jagger opines thoughtfully on the state of the world and his place in it, and you can see the very-rapidly-forming persona that would become Mick Jagger within a year, curling around the gawky, skinny, not-all-that-cool Michael Jagger, student of economics. And then there is Brian Jones, with his perfect blond bowl hair, his suburban accent, and his artistic hopes/pretensions. He is asked about what he sees himself doing when the Stones are done, and he replies somberly that it worries him. He would have, at that time, less than four years of life left.

As the Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th Anniversary as a band this year, I can't think of any better tribute to them than "Charlie Is My Darling." See for yourself why we came out to the theater, and why I am endlessly, deeply, gushingly grateful to have been born in time to feel some of that kind of musical energy as it was happening. I just bet that my fellow movie patrons with the sensible shoes may have a stage jumping story or two, too.