Way before the big corps suffocated festival free spirit, 500,000 revellers ran naked through ields, bathed boob-to-buttock in ponds and tripped through a weekend with no Carling and certainly no Virgin in sight.
It was in 1969 and Ang Lee – along with most people his age – think it was pretty special. Man.
Hence Taking Woodstock – the director’s happiest and hippiest film to date, a love song to when the Woodstock festival moved to the Catskill Mountains and the run-down, broke motel of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin, wet) and parents Sonia (Imelda Staunton, bossy) and Jake (Henry Goodman, resigned).
Clearly a time without strict permits or any sort of fence, the site soon became sardined, but in Lee’s memory perfectly safe, sexy and even clean.
This is Lee taking a well-earned headbreak after the toil and heartache of Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution. Those films were tough. This is easy-going, lightweight even and a detailed, visually precise recreation of a couple of weeks when a generation and individuals such as Elliot, yep, took stock.
There are no 3D specs here, just rose-tinted ones. As such, it’s a film that’ll divide audiences in two.
Over 40? You’ll dig the free love, acid, idealism, returning ’Nam vets, peace and the effortless way Lee brings all the era’s highs into focus.
Under 40? You’ll wish over-40s would just move on, stop harping on about how wonderful everything used to be when the hippy movement amounted to the sum total of the Altamont meltdown (seen in last month’s Gimme Shelter DVD and, to be fair, foreshadowed here) and listen to some goddamn Animal Collective instead. Man.
Some will revel in it, but (younger) viewers may find Taking Woodstock old hat. Case in point? Even the drug-trip sequence so beloved in Cannes was rendered obsolete days later when Enter The Void screened. All very beautiful, though.