Director: Michael Wadleigh | 216 minutes | documentary, history, music | Featuring: Joan Baez, Canned Heat, Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, Country Joe McDonald & Country Joe & The Fish, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, John Sebastian , Sha-Na-Na, Sly & The family Stone, Ten Years After, The Who
Woodstock, the most legendary music festival of all time. Everything was right during that magical summer of 1969: the atmosphere, the people, the music. Some 500,000 hippies settled in a meadow to listen to greats like Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Jefferson Airplane. Traffic got stuck in the wider area, food was running out and there were too few toilets and first aiders. Yet there were hardly any disturbances and help soon came from all over. Locals donated food, the army flew in relief supplies, and doctors offered their services for free. Woodstock proved that half a million young people could live together in harmony for three days, thus symbolizing the fraternizing effect of music.
Director Michael Wadleigh was there and shot pictures that you could frame. In his documentary “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music”, Wadleigh alternates atmospheric images with performances and interviews with festival visitors, artists, organizers, the local population and the authorities. He appears to have an eye for special moments; the camera always seems to be in the right place. As a result, “Woodstock” is more than just a festival report. The film paints a beautiful era of the generation that grew up with rock, recreational drugs and free love, but also with racial hatred, the Vietnam War and the threat of nuclear weapons. The spell of Woodstock briefly gave America the feeling that peace and freedom were within reach.
And then the music. It is pure, honest and straight from the heart. The Woodstock line-up was mouth-watering and many gigs are classics. Richie Havens who improvises the song “Freedom” during his set. Janis Joplin, who died too young, is screaming out loud. The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. Carlos Santana presenting himself to a large audience, with a very young Michael Shrieve behind the drums. The energy splashes off the stage and all that beautiful music comes into its own thanks to the improved sound quality of the Director’s Cut. So enjoy!
“Woodstock” has so many golden moments that it is difficult to choose. The aerial shots of the huge crowd. The yogis who get high naturally through breathing exercises. The lovemaking couples. The organizers who declare with a big smile on their face that Woodstock is a financial disaster. A girl with a colorful parasol on a deserted, trampled festival site. The Chief of Police calling on America’s parents to be proud of their offspring. Hippies who chant “NO RAIN!” Find that it does not help and then turn necessity into a virtue. If you think they invented the mud slide at Lowlands, then you are wrong!
There are only a few hiccups. Logically, the image quality leaves something to be desired here and there, the interviews are difficult to understand due to the background noise and Wadleigh is a bit too enthusiastic about switching image formats. Not everyone likes to look at large black bars. The documentary is also on the long side with its 3.5 hours. Anyway, then you also have something! “Woodstock” is a movie that every music lover must see. Even if you hatched after the hippie days.