Blog Directory CineVerse: CineVersary: Woodstock and Altamont 40 years later

CineVersary: Woodstock and Altamont 40 years later

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hard to fathom that next week will mark the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest cultural milestones of the 1960s, the Woodstock music and art festival, which convened August 15-18, 1969 in Bethel, New York.

Drawing nearly half a million people a
nd featuring rock royalty acts like Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills & Nash, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead and many others, Woodstock set the standard for major music shindigs, setting an important precedent that later festivals like Lollapalooza, Ozzfest and Bonnaroo can aspire to.

Filmmaker Michael Wadleigh brilliantly captured the sights, sounds and countercultural vibe that permeated the unforgettable three-day event in his groundbreaking documentary "Woodstock," which was released in early 1970. "Woodstock" freed the standard rock concert documentary from the restraints of the stage and static camera by utilizing 16 cameras, which filmed approximately 100 miles of footage and ensured that the spectators as well as the performers would be well represented.

Supported by a hungry lot of talented young filmmakers--including Martin Scorsese--Wadleigh assembled the footage into an amazing sensory pastiche. The film's creative use of split screens helps juxtapose diverse images and tell the story of Woodstock in an innovative way.

Warner Brothers recently remastered the original 70mm print and cleaned up the multi-channel soundtrack, as evidenced on the brand-new "Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Director's Cut (40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition)" DVD boxed set--a worthy buy or rental.

If Woodstock was remembered as the intoxicating high point of the '60s flower power counterculture movement, Altamont—the notorious free show the Rolling Stones hosted in December of 1969 in California—was later regarded as the hangover from hell.

And that’s quite an appropriate description, considering the Stones hired the outlaw Hells Angels as concert security, who proceeded to beat audience members and even knife to death one particular concertgoer.

All this (plus the music and more mayhem) was captured on film by the Maysles brothers--outstanding documentarians in their own right--who in 1970 released "Gimme Shelter," a sobering testament that signaled the end of an era and which still stands as one of the greatest rock documentaries ever made—warts, welts and all. Check out the Criterion Collection edition DVD of this must-see flick.

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