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Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music Ultimate Collector’s Edition

by Phil Hall
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 9, 2009
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Viewed from the safety of 40 years' worth of hindsight, Michael Wadleigh's Oscar-winning Woodstock comes across as a funky curio that defines the mood and spirit of its time, but which seems dated in many good and bad ways.

This new DVD presentation, which relies on a newly remastered version of the 1994 director's cut of 228 minutes rather than the 184-minute original 1970 theatrical release, will ignite a flame of nostalgia for those who are old enough to recall that increasingly distant era. The music, of course, is peerless - Richie Havens' jolting Freedom to Joan Baez's stunning unplugged renditions of Joe Hill and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and career-prime offerings by Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Santana, Sly & the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix.

Also included are two extra hours of performances that have not been previously seen, including numbers from performers who were not included in either the original version or the expanded director's cut - Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, Mountain, Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Johnny Winter.

This DVD will ignite a flame of nostalgia for those who are old enough to recall that increasingly distant era.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Woodstock is still a ridiculously overlong and frequently unfocused movie that wastes too much time on the sillier aspects of the three-day festival (yoga lessons, mud sliding contests, interviews with babbling hippies) instead of highlighting the talent that fueled the event. It is odd that neither Janis Joplin nor Jefferson Airplane was included in the original version (they turned up only in the director's cut) or that Melanie, Ravi Shankar, The Band and Tim Hardin were nowhere to be found in any of the versions. (Don't ask why those retro goofballs Sha Na Na received screen time instead.)

Furthermore, the film's trademark split screen effects quickly become very annoying. Thank goodness that trend ended with this film.

However, watching Woodstock today, it is difficult not to appreciate the positive aspects of the event: its lack of excessive commercialism, the sense of community among those who came and stayed for the full three days (even when facing inclement weather), the peaceful vibe that permeated the surroundings, and the physical beauty of the hippie men and women (the guys were lean and trim, the women were flower child gorgeous, and no morbidly obese tubbies were to be found).

In a way, that pre-digital, psychedelic era may have been more fun that today's high-stress world. For those who lived it, Woodstock is a rueful memory lane trip. For those who only know of 1969 from history books and documentaries, let's just say you arrived too late for the real fun!

Phil Hall is the author of "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time


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