WOODSTOCK: THREE DAYS THAT DEFINED A GENERATION, released for big and small screens by quality TV reliables PBS Distribution and American Experience Films, is more deep-look-into than another mere look back at the iconic August 1969 counterculture rock concert event. This exhilarating, archival-rich doc, propelled by contemporary commentary from fest organizers, attendees and the welcoming rural locals, explores the mechanics of creating and producing so complex a concert event as well as conveying the era's historic tragedies (the precipitating events, in story speak) that inspired it.
Most stirringly, Woodstock: Three Days..., directed by award-winning filmmaker Barak Goodman, who co-wrote with Don Kleszy, recalls the late 60s tragic socio-political convulsions and zeitgeist — the assassinations of heroes Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the injustices of segregation and sexual and gender marginalization, and the hated Viet Nam war. For a macabre postscript, the Manson horror unfolded a week prior to the fest and also shaped this generation. Top rock ’n’ roll artists -- hip to the monstrous muck and restless mood -- were the huge draw. The stellar line-up attracted many hundreds of thousands of outraged, yet hopeful young fans who sought and found solace, pleasure, escape in music and freedom (and, yeah, some drugs and mischief) in a remote upstate farm community no one had ever heard of. Also delivering plenty of never-before-seen footage, this Woodstock visit has little redundancy with Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 epic 3-hour Woodstock concert doc -- largely a therapeutic salvo of non-stop performances that proved the unifying power of music and helped set the stage for the MTV music video deluge a decade later. While Woodstock: Three Days... delivers its own musical rush with performance footage of such Woodstock legendaries as Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Baez, Country Joe et al., it paints a broader, deeper, more sober but every bit as lively and thrilling canvas, featuring the concert producers, hired hands, generous locals, attendees. Thanks to much contemporary feedback, many who made the scene reveal the event’s impact on themselves, if not on history itself. And, yes, deferring to less high-minded viewers, some mud playing and nude bathing footage is also concluded.
Might Woodstock: Three Days… be the best picture ever evoking the soul, spirit and post-Woodstock party triumphs (war subsided, human rights broadened, pop music was never surpassed, etc.) etc.) of the 60s generation??
While the concert unfolded in the shadow of many dire events, the doc and focus on the area’s locals and a "groovy" hippie West Coast commune brilliantly, unbelievably but effectively flown in to serve as the event's security, is a poignant reminder of how kind, tolerant and “groovy” just plain folk can be and what their mindset can do.
As a meta-concert film, there's still an abundance of music of the era and original performance footage that will keep multiple generations of fans tapping toes, bobbing heads and reconsidering the style merits of headbands and fringes.
Offers a lesson for today’s lazy, crippled times: when people of good intentions mobilize effectively, they really do forge change for the better and make a difference.
Offers two more important lessons: one for a media saturated age by showing how masses of doc material teeming with important messages, memories, and valuable audio/visuals can be tamed by smart, patient, focused filmmakers. And, a second lesson for today’s intellectually and morally lazy times: when people of good intentions mobilize effectively, they really do forge change and make a difference, even if just a good (groovy!) time was the intention.