DIRECTOR: MICHAEL WADLEIGH
COUNTRY: USA 1970
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Don Lenzer, David Meyers, Richard Pearce, Michael Wadleigh, Al Wertheimer
MUSIC: Richie Havens, Joan Baez, The Who, Joe Cocker, Crosby Still and Nash, Country Joe McDonald, Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, John Sebastian, Sly and the Family Stone, Wavy Gravy and the multitude of fans.
CAST: The bands and the fans
SUPER FEATURES: There will never be a better rock music film made.
If there has ever been a record of an era that has not survived well, and has gone total smithereens, this film, seen in its revised edition or not, is such a record. It has its magnificent points, and then it has its bad points. No one ever accused Michael Wadleigh of being fair, or unfair to anyone. But no one can say that what these people wanted to prove was well done, and achieved, despite the trash left behind, still one of the most haunting symbols of Americana wasteland. No other public event will ever to stand close to this one in an euphoria of meaning that transcends all of the people that were there.
Of all the rock spectacles ever created, there is no doubt that this one has lived out one heck of a moment in time. Even though the performances in this film are only a small portion of what really happened, and not representative of the total experience in those three days, something that has never been duplicated, at least with the present state of music and the aberrant control that the industry has over the way these things should meet the people. I suppose that one thing is obvious in this movie -- you can do something for love, and all of those bands in the film are immortalized to an extraordinary degree, even if their previous and past record was less than admirable (like Sly and The Family Stone, who was notoriously known to be late to his own shows and one time incited a riot in Chicago, and several friends of this reviewer did not escape without blood in their heads), or you can do it for megabucks with a beer commercial, and I have to admit that I am glad that the Rolling Stones never joined the mix -- probably the main reason they are alive, I bet. The others are mostly freaks of nature, that are doing occasional shows here and there. They look like geriatric hippies from another country, and a failed experiment.
Today, something of this nature is impossible, specially when we really do not have something to "fight for" or to agree with, other than greed. Our tastes today are so varied that most festivals get embarrassed and eventually trashed, since many people do not like the next band, or what not. At least, in Woodstock, you might not have cared for "Joan Baez" and the pseudo hipness, or "Richie Havens" and his thing, but you knew that what they sang about was indeed valuable in some form, and you respected that. Today, you might care about what "Metallica" says, but when "Green Day" comes on half the audience goes away, or when "Nine Inch Nails" appears, two thirds of the people go out to get drunk. Basically there is a lack of acceptance in these events that was not a problem a few years ago, when the music DID make a difference and had something to say. WOODSTOCK, the movie, really is about what it DID have to say, and the best part of those days, which came crashing down amidst shameless news media attacks on innocent people manipulated via republican leaders that had little faith and belief in their own children. Yes, we did need a revolution to fight for. Unfortunately we lost, the battle, despite a few wonderful moments in the spotlight -- most of them shining in this film.
But interestingly enough, the film glaringly displays the difference between what was to become the defining line in the business. One can listen to the magic anthem that The Who pounds away so magnificently, and soon one hears a simple bar song under the hands of Alvin Lee and Ten Years After. One is an anthem that has meaning to all of us, and the other one, is more of a night on the town, and time to call it. The need and difference is now self serving, instead of a more communal and respectful social scene and human need. Feel me, touch me, were never really defined, but they spoke for a generation that would soon lose this feeling. It's a third dimension that is much more significant than the chance to pick up a girl and fail with her, which is more selfish by comparison -- still significant to a degree, but already a theme that was not a major issue in the 60's as it came to be later ... so the whole love generation goes through all this so we could be disappointed that things didn't work out with a mate? So much for the real meaning of the whole thing.
Seeing this kind of dichotomy within minutes is astounding, not to mention that the two bands perform at an unbelievable peak, that has rarely been seen anywhere else. The Who, probably never had done a better show, despite Keith Moon supposedly barely able to stand up. And Ten Years After, more than likely has never been able to give as strong and fiery a performance as it did that night. Alvin Lee has blistered his fingers and guitar something fierce many times, but his band and him, will always remember the one show that was filmed, that displayed a magnificent guitarist at work.
The other performances, that stood up, were Joe Cocker, and in the end Jimi Hendrix, whom we barely came to know. But on this day, he magnified the single most important anthem of a generation -- it was not a revolution at all, we just disagreed on a few things. And we liked an electric guitar, specially manhandled by a lefty that could burn it up something fierce. Crosby, Still and Nash were fine, probably as good as they had ever been, since they have never been able to do in concert what they did in the studio. Santana was excellent, but in those days, there was no such thing as a bad Santana show.
But in the middle of all this is the most stunning use of the camera, which defined what rock music was going to be about for the next couple of generations, and still is so today. Acute angles, and serious colors, and monumental moments that have become the single most recognizable look in the MTV generation since then. An appearance that these people are bigger than life. In some cases, many of these musicians were, even if they did not perform at their best (Janis Joplin a perfect example), and never made it to the final cut.
But of all the films that have ever been made about, with, for, any rock music out there, very few of them will stand up as such a magnificent showcase of people that really knew that their music was important, and they did some of their best to let people know it, at a time when the recording industry did not believe in most of them, and thought the hippie thing and music was just a joke, or a fad. Nowadays it is, but not then. Woodstock, changed all that. Sadly enough, what it did the best, and it shows 30 years later, is that the whole thing became so
commercialized until it finally died. No one is really sure if it was the drugs, the sex or the rock'n'roll, but that scene left so fast that it was a wonder that anyone knew it had ever existed.
ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER MADE. The single most historic film about music ever made.
5 of 5 GIBLOONS
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