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Taking Woodstock review

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Taking Woodstock


R 120 min


Oddly enough I’m reviewing another major buzz director’s (Ang Lee) most recent offering.

Personally I’m ambivalent about Lee’s work, which ranges from the captivating (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) to the pretentious and dull (HIDDEN DRAGON CROUCHING OPOSSUM) but they’re all noteworthy.

This one, TAKING WOODSTOCK, is the behind the scenes look at an event that became one of the seminal legends of my generation.

Until now, the story has been limited to the artists who showed up and played and became the barbarians who took rock and roll back from the British invaders.

Sure we knew it was “good food and we’re gonna get it to you” and not to eat the brown acid but Woodstock has usually been discussed in terms of music.

This take is an autobiographical look at the business and personal stories behind the curtain. It’s from the memoirs of Elliot Tiber (comic Demetrius Martin), a young town council president who just happened to have a valid permit for his own lame arts festival when the entrepreneurs of the mega rock concert run into legal snags in a nearby village.

Since Tiber’s family motel “resort” is barely fit for human inhabitants neighbor Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy) is persuaded to rent out his dairy farm for an exorbitant rate.

So, with the deal in place, hordes of music execs, promoters, carpenters and sound crew (not to mention all manner of eclectic 60s era people) descend upon the area, much to the distress of the locals.

Another large part of this story is the interaction with Elliot’s parents. His mother is unpleasant and very likely on the upper reaches of neurosis. It’s no wonder Elliot’s gay though that’s somewhat understated here.

As TAKING WOODSTOCK rolls along the show grows from a simple concert into a juggernaut we know of today and it’s that process that the film describes.

I’ve heard gripes that the music is nearly ignored but that’s fine by me. The people involved are more interesting than smoking a joint and cranking up K Tel’s Peace and Love Hits of the sixties. Your mileage, of course, may differ but remember that even getting a glimpse of the bands at such a huge affair was nearly impossible for thousands. It’s the experience that matters, man. One great quote is “Ants making thunder.”

Lee does take a page from the previous concert film and uses the memorable split screen effect often. That’ll provide a bit of a flashback.

Sure Tiber’s recollection tends to paint him in a favorable light. Sure sometimes the story sounds a little familiar, and sure, there is some quibbling over some facts but why not?

It’s like the man says, “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t really there.”





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