Movie Review: Taking Woodstock
Woodstock, a place name that became synonymous with an event that really changed the world in many ways. It was the end of the sixties, and the end in many ways, of the hippie movement. The last hurrah I think and in so being, became a golden memory for the five hundred thousand people in attendance. Of course just how much faithful memory there may be on the parts of those attended could be argued due to bad acid…. Then there is the documentary movie so there you go.
Woodstock is the final zeitgeist for an era.
When Woodstock happened I was three years old (you can do the math if you want to see just how old this crabbyolbastard is) but this event resonates with me because of my parents and of course my arts background. The music has always been around me and I have become an armchair historian about those early years of my life. So, I may not have lived it as it happened, but I have been to Woodstock, read the books, and listened to the music as well as seen the documentary. To use the parlance to the time “I am hip to it man”
So it was with some preconceived notions that I watched this film thinking that it was a fictional account that would be an analogous story to the reality of Woodstock. After watching the film though, I learned that it was based on (or inspired by) the real life experiences of Woodstock and how it came to be. The author of the book Elliot Tiber (Teichberg) has some claim to the process of bringing Woodstock to White Lake NY and in fact was likely the pivotal character in the final site choice for the festival. However, Michael Lang and Tiber differ on Yasgur’s farm being suggested by Tiber.
Regardless of the site choice history, the film follows the experiences of Teichberg, a young closeted man dealing with his dysfunctional parents and the events that would change his life and the lives of many that became Woodstock. As you would expect, there is a rich character landscape from the Hippies, the Freaks, the townspeople, and a baseball bat wielding “security officer” transvestite played by Liev Schreiber. Add to this the lengths at which Ang Lee went to to re-create much of the original footage from the Woodstock documentary and you have quite an interesting tapestry to watch.
I am not a big fan of the split screen, so the cinematography was a bit tedious in that respect. However, the overall look and feel of the film was dead on for the period and the pacing. The best piece of cinematography though for me, was a scene where Elliot takes LSD for I assume, the first time. The color enhancements, movement, and overall feel pretty much did a good job of approximating a “good trip”as much as I can tell for never having taken any. An odd thing though that occurred to me as I was watching this was a parallel between the LSD trips of the past and the alleged sensory experiences of “Ecstasy” users today. It made me wonder if the kids of today had replaced one for the other and added a ring pop.
The movie overall was a pleasant ride through some rather tough subject matter with the family issues as well as homosexuality, identity, and the whole counterculture movement of the sixties and its golden end. It made me wonder though just how far away from the ethos now those hippies are in todays society. I also wonder as well just how many of those hippies had kids who are now today part of the Goldman Sachs set, plundering the fake capitalist marketplace. One has to really wonder what these parents now think of their movement and just what good it may have done.
Check out this film for a historical and personal journey of exploration.