Woodstock (1970)

Directed by Michael Wadleigh

An intimate look at the Woodstock Music & Art Festival held in Bethel, NY in 1969, from preparation through cleanup, with historic access to insiders, blistering concert footage, and portraits of the concertgoers; negative and positive aspects are shown, from drug use by performers to naked fans sliding in the mud, from the collapse of the fences by the unexpected hordes to the surreal arrival of National Guard helicopters with food and medical assistance for the impromptu city of 500,000.

An interesting watch despite the 3h45m running time, partly due to the Woodstock 'brand' today and partly due to the vox pop and images of festival-goers that run throughout the film. Modulo Jimi Hendrix, the actual music interested me rather less; it was the kind of blues-inflected pentatonic-scale noodling that I was into a few decades ago and now is a little cringe. Still, you could easily write an entire book on the political and social commentary embedded in Jimi's reworking of The Star-Spangled Banner.

A few quotes I found interesting:

Decades of mythmaking have made Woodstock seem like a Grand Unifying Event, when really it was the subsequent Woodstock-worship that became the unifier. […] watching the movie now, it’s more rewarding to skip Joe Cocker’s contorting and Richie Havens tuning up, and instead look at the kids eating crackers with honey, or practicing yoga, or getting homesick, and to think about how at that exact moment, they hadn’t yet been reduced to abstractions.

Noel Murray, AV Club (2009)

The [1960s] began with the election of John F. Kennedy and ended as the last bedraggled citizens of Woodstock Nation slogged off the muddy field and thumbed a ride into a future that would seem, to many of them, mostly downhill.

Roger Ebert