Thursday, February 20, 2014

511. WOODSTOCK (1970)

Running Time: 211 minutes
Directed By: Michael Wadleigh
Main Cast: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker
Click here to view the trailer


This is another one where the running time becomes somewhat of an issue. THE BOOK clocks "Woodstock" in at 184 minutes. However, I watched the director's cut, which most sites clock in at 224 minutes. I added up the two discs of footage that I watched to total 211 minutes, so that's what we'll go with and hopefully that clarifies for anyone else out there who may have been questioning the true duration.

We all know Woodstock right? The August 1969 concert to end all concerts, where the most momentous musical acts of the time came together to play their instruments and sing their songs for the benefit of promoting peace, love and rock & roll. Well, if you still don't know what I'm talking about then you truly MUST check out Michael Wadleigh's documentary chronicling the three day long music festival, just to see what all the hubbub is about. The film begins before the crowds even arrive in Bethel, New York, to a 300 acre piece of farmland, where soon strumming guitars and loud voices (like those of Janis Joplin or Country Joe) would overtake the melancholic sounds of nature and the last big battle of a generational war would be waged.  Richie Havens kicks off the music, tapping his feet and strumming his heart out, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Acts like Joan Baez, The Who, Country Joe, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin and Jimi Henrix would follow, all of them hopefully realizing that they were a part of something special. Of course, the acid and marijuana were flowing like Niagara Falls, so maybe they didn't realize anything. In between the music, we get to meet a few of the concert goers, many of whom weave in and out of the sometimes 400,000 plus crowd, with nothing more on than their smiles. We hear of babies being born, marriage proposals being issued and bad acid being circulated, all just another day in the life of a 60s, American hippie.

It really was a generational war, wasn't it? The entire decade of the 60s was one big war of words & actions and if that's the case, could we consider people like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin the generals of this war, fighting on behalf of the younger combatants? It was a time when music truly inspired people, I think and musicians actually sang about things that meant something to them. It was a time when it would've been easy to confuse one of the musicians with a peddler on the street. Look at Country Joe for instance or the members of Canned Heat - they look like anybodies. They didn't need flashy attire, smoke machines or fireworks, but instead, they let their music be their music speak for them and what set them apart was the fact that they knew how to express themselves through instrument and through songwriting. I'm going off on a tangent, let me back up.

Was this film a must see? Sure, see it, by all means. Did I REALLY enjoy it though? Not really. It was fine, I guess and honestly, it made me realize I should be listening to more old music and rediscovering some of these old bands, but judging it as a movie, I can't say it was very enthralling, as it relied more on listening than watching. I enjoyed watching the performances (especially Joe Cocker, my favorite of the bunch) and witnessing the the people of the times, but judging it strictly as a documentary, I can't get too giddy about it. That being said, I enjoyed myself, for the most part and at nearly four hours, it was a super easy watch. Seeing actual documentary footage of Hendrix on the screen was just great and I think I'd compare it to watching "Triumph of the Will" and actually seeing real footage of Hitler. Not that I'm comparing Hendrix to Hitler, in any way other than actually seeing real footage of these figures. I'm not sure how Michael Wadleigh actually put out a concert film without including clips of Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band, but he did and it was a travesty, as I was wanting to see both. I would've included The Grateful Dead in there too, but with some research I found out that Jerry Garcia was displeased with the band's set and insisted that the footage not be used. Instead, footage of a Garcia interview is included.

An interesting footnote: Woodstock's two featured acts - Hendrix and Joplin - died just over one year later, both of apparent drug overdoses. It's just so tragic to watch these performers doing their thing and knowing that in about a year they'll be dead. They had no idea, but I do. Weird - to me anyway. With all that being said, I'd say most are going to enjoy this, but as a documentary, I've seen much better and as a movie, I'd rather watch something else. That's not saying I didn't enjoy the time spent with this film, because I did.

RATING: 5/10  Let's just slice it in half and call it a day. There's apparently an even more restored version that was just recently released that actually does include some of that CCR footage.


February 20, 2014  11:53pm


  1. Well.. I've gotta love this one I guess..... I would have been.. errrrr.. 14 when this all happened.. a little too young to really get the vibe man.... But I grew into it later.. (when it was all over)
    I do sort of wish I'd been a bit older to experience the whole thing as it happened.. not just in a nostalgic haze. Today it all looks a bit.. well, dated i'm afraid.
    I still love the music.. but sitting down to WATCH concert footage.. well, it doesn't really work.
    Great if you are doing something else non demanding.. so you can appreciate the music.. but not feel trapped in a chair for... 3 hours plus... just sitting there.
    I have still got somewhere the triple gate fold vinyl album which I used to play a lot.. but you know.. its such a drag to keep changing the record over every 20 mins... At least the album has Jefferson Airplane, who probably remain one of my favourites..("you heard the heavy groups, now your gonna hear Morning maniac music")
    So much as I'd really, really like to strong;y disagree and rate this one MUCH higher.. when it comes down to it.. to be honest, I'd rather put a studio Dylan or Airplane CD on than rewatch this.
    I guess I've become the older generation.
    So count this as a reluctant agree!

    1. That is EXACTLY what I was trying to say: I enjoyed it, but being tied to it for three hours, well that was a chore.

      Funny Ray, I never really pegged you for a big fan of music. Have you ever had a look at the 1001 Albums book?


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...