Friday, August 28, 2009

Taking Woodstock (Rhoades)

“Taking Woodstock” Will Take You Back

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Were you at Woodstock, the 1969 musical lovefest in upstate New York? Lots of my friends were. Some even remember the experience.

Elliot Tiber does. So he wrote an autobiography called “Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life” which just got made into a movie.
“Taking Woodstock” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Oddly enough, the film about this seminal America experience was directed by Chinese-born Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain,” “The Hulk”). Go figure. Perhaps it takes an independent observer to truly capture this event.

This dramedy tells the story of Elliot, the kid who’s responsible for arranging that the festival be held in Bethel, NY. Seems his mom and dad owned a small motel in the Catskills, a business on the verge of collapse. But wait! – they also happen to hold the only musical festival permit in the entire county. Yowza! He can help those desperate promoters in search of a venue.

The “Aquarian Exposition” is replayed here. All the heart-pounding music, the legendary performers, the whiff of marijuana in the air, every little nuance. Yep, with plenty of mud, plenty of nudity. And the cast of characters is spot on, so much so they now seem stereotypical. You’ll meet the hippie couple, the guitar-playing wanderer, the recently returned Vietnam vet, the concert organizer, etc.
Demetri Martin is winning as Elliot, the kid through whose eyes we experience Woodstock. Martin is best known as a standup comedian and has a TV show called “Important Things With Demetri Martin” on Comedy Central.

Interesting casting is Liev Schreiber (the macho Sabretooth in the recent “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), here playing a transvestite named Vilma. And you’ll enjoy Eugene Levy (don’t you just love that guy?) as a local who owns the 600-acre dairy farm where the Woodstock Music and Art Fair takes place.

“Taking Woodstock” features songs from a score of ’60s musical icons including The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and Country Joe and the Fish, as well as a new recording of “Freedom” from Richie Havens. But this is not a performance film per se. As Ang Lee says, the camera is on the crowd.

A timely remembrance for all us aging hippies? As a matter of fact, August 18 was the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

If you’re part of the Woodstock generation, you’ll enjoy this return trip (that’s not a pun or is it?). If you’re younger, you’ll find this “ancient history” interesting. In any case, you’ll love the music.
[from Solares Hill]

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