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Taking Woodstock [DVD]
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Comedy drama from celebrated director Ang Lee, based on the memoir 'Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life' by Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte. The year is 1969 and Elliot Teichberg (Demetri Martin) has had to move back to work in his parents' run down Catskills motel after an unsuccessful attempt at interior design in New York City. With the bank threatening to shut down the motel at the same time a neighbouring town pulls the permit on a hippy music festival, Eliot comes up with a plan to save his family's business. Seeing the potential to generate customers for the motel, Elliot calls the festival producers but things turn out to be much bigger than he expected when, just three weeks later, over half a million people make their way to his neighbour's farm. Elliot now discovers himself caught up in a generation-defining adventure after which his life will never be the same again.
The famous stage where Jimi Hendrix, the Who, and Crosby, Stills and Nash played before a half-million people in 1969 is never closer than a mile or so away in Taking Woodstock. Similarly, some of the familiar live music in Michael Wadleigh's Oscar-winning, 1970 documentary Woodstock is never louder than a distant echo in this period film by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain). That's because Taking Woodstock is not really about the music, but about a little-known figure who had everything to do with making the Woodstock concert festival happen. Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) is the very young president of a chamber of commerce in the Catskills town where he grew up. Burdened with the failure of his parents (amazing performances by Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman) to make a go of a crummy motel, Elliot is making himself crazy trying to be a dutiful son and civic leader.
His trials are both lightened and intensified by an accident of history. Elliot sees a newspaper article explaining how the organizers of an outdoor rock concert have lost the use of a nearby field they were counting on. In short order, he makes contact with the promoters, putting them together with dairy farmer Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), who has plenty of available pasture for rent. He also sets up the groovy but cryptic boss of the whole enterprise, Michael Lang (astute work by Tony Award-nominated Jonathan Groff, a talent to watch), as well as Lang's movers and shakers, at the motel. In no time, the Tibers' life becomes a three-ring circus, while a steady stream of young people clog the roads on their way to a legendary concert. Lee, a master at creating precise milieus for the varied stories he tells (Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), gets the look and texture and energy of a counterculture Happening in 1969 close to perfect. He also makes Taking Woodstock look vintage, bleaching colors to approximate the tones of many a big movie from that era, and using a split-screen to challenge the idea of the camera's singular perspective. In the end, Taking Woodstock is itself a pretty far-out version of a heartwarming coming-of-age tale--Elliot's coming-of-age, that is, as the excellent Martin's boy-man looks beyond that motel and discovers a big, wide world out there, just waiting for him. --Tom Keogh
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Top Customer Reviews
I have watched this 3 times so far,its very funny,lighthearted and educational there is no music on the Woodstock stage,but plays in the background at times.
The acting is brilliant,and shows very well how it really was at that time in the States and eventually throughout the whole world.
Highly recommended especially for people who are old enough to be in the Hippy movement at that time,if you weren't then perhaps it wont mean so much,but is still a good movie to see.
There are some good bonus scenes too.
I'm not sure why this movie got such a bum rap from critics and punters alike. From what I can gather they couldn't comprehend a movie about the legendary 1969 Woodstock music festival that did not feature any of the actual artists' performances that appeared on the famed stage. Which means they are missing the point of this film. It's not about "Woodstock", it's about how it happened. Love it or not I think it's another fine movie from Ang Lee. If you're a fan of this film I strongly suggest an upgrade to Blu-ray. To put it simply it looks stunning and unlike the DVD release its also has a number of bonus features about the making of the film. If you want the music there is already a 1970 documentary (now available in a director's cut edition) that gives you a pretty thorough feel of the festival itself including a large chunk of the music. For me, Taking Woodstock is a nice little trip back to 1969 for those of us that were not there either because we were too young or got stuck in the traffic jam. Cool, nice one Elliot!
I went back and read some of the film critic reviews and the major whine they all had was either 'its not Brokeback Mountain, or Lust Caution' or 'nothing much happens' or 'nothing of the concert' is shown. For heaven's sake! This is the true story of a young man who had the permit for a rock concert to be held at his hometown of Bethel ,and who on hearing the organizers of 'Woodstock' had their permit rejected, first at Woodstock and then at a place called Walkill, called up Michael Lang- the guy who was putting the concert together, and suggests he hold the concert there- all this with only days to go before the announced date, and got Lang introduced to Max Yasgur etc. And as his parents owned the motel there, how that became the base and starting point.
Lee's instincts were absolutely right to film a story about what went on at the periphery of a soon to be historic event. Why bother with the concert at all- we have the brilliant WOODSTOCK documentary for that. With his split screen and one or two touching references Lee pays tribute to the movie anyway. As for the criticism about 'nothing much happens' well what they means is the movie is random (like in real life folks!) and probably does not have the neat 'story line' cliches which I so detest! Demetri Martin who plays the young man Eliott Tischberg is fanstastic, but even his performance has been called 'lifeless'by some!!!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While the disc inside was in excellent condition the cover has been folded several times which has left large creases.Published 1 month ago by PJ1982
Amazing film! if you love everything Woodstock- then buy it! Tells you all about the REAL back story behind the scenes, excellent original music throughout! :0)Published 2 months ago by Miss Jose Tee
Love this film so so much definitely worth having in the collection and a good history lesson on the actual Woodstock festival.Published 2 months ago by Sam Cobbett
This film was wonderful. I had seen some bad reviews of it, but I think that must be to do with the slow pace and style of the movie just not suiting those particular viewers. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Dani