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Woodstock (1970).

January 29, 2008

The Scoop:
That August 1969 weekend in upstate New York may have become over-mythologized and over-commercialized since then, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival was still pivotal to the history of rock music and American culture.

This justly-celebrated documentary by Michael Wadleigh and an army of assistants may have become pegged as a relic of the hippie era, but it is worth another look with fresh eyes. The film captures both the energy of the live music (including classic performances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin) and the spirit of the kids in the crowd. In fact, the crowd sequences contain some of the film’s best moments, providing a rich glimpse at the many sides of the era and illustrating the complexities underlying so many of the old “hippie” stereotypes we’ve inherited.

Even its nearly four hour running time, packed with some of the best-ever use split screen imagery, doesn’t seem enough to do justice to the three days of peace, love and music. A classic time capsule of a generation.

Best Bit:
The two guys who think the government is trying to stop the festival by seeding the clouds to make it rain.

Side Note:
Among the bevy of film editors were the fledgling Martin Scorcese and his career-long editing partner, Thelma Schoonmaker. They both also received assistant director credits on the film.

Companion Viewing:
“Monterey Pop” (1969).


Take a Look:
Whoopee! We’re all gonna die!

Joe Cocker performs “With a Little Help From My Friends”:

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