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Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music(1970)
An intimate look at the Woodstock Music & Art Festival held in Bethel, NY in 1969, from preparation through cleanup, with historic access to insiders, blistering concert footage, and portraits of the concertgoers; negative and positive aspects are shown, from drug use by performers to naked fans sliding in the mud, from the collapse of the fences by the unexpected hordes to the surreal arrival of National Guard helicopters with food and medical assistance for the impromptu city of 500,000.
For more about Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music and the Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray release, see the Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray Review
Starring: Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, The Who, Crosby, Stills & Nash
Director: Michael Wadleigh
» See full cast & crew
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray Review
A mesmerizing documentary earns an excellent Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 26, 2009
It's been said that every generation has a defining moment: a cultural singularity that alters
the course of everything that has come before, and influences everything that comes after. For
nearly half a million young men and women struggling to find their place and purpose in Vietnam-
era America, that moment came during a three-day music festival in a little New York farm town
called Bethel. The festival's name? Woodstock. Its financiers were unprepared for the
overwhelming response, its grounds incapable of sustaining so many attendees... food was scarce,
the water was contaminated, and the weather was unforgiving. But in spite of it all, the prevailing
hippie mantra of the day seeped into every gathering and performance. Peace and love dominated
the proceedings, music drew everyone together, and rock-n-roll, once a disdained source of social
discord and rebellion, began to take on a whole new significance.
Developed and directed by Michael Wadleigh, edited by assistant directors Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese (then a twenty-six-year old fledgling still four years away from Mean Streets), and filmed on location from August 15 to August 18, 1969, Woodstock represents documentary filmmaking at its finest. It may have been completely misunderstood by studio executives of the era, but it went on to earn a variety of nominations and awards (most notably an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature), receive official recognition from the National Film Registry, and build a loyal following of fans young and old. Over the course of the monumental, now-historically important event, Wadleigh's cameras bounce and drift across the Sullivan County grounds, focusing on the hundreds of thousands attending the festival as intently as the legendary performance artists occupying the main stage. More intriguingly, each passing face in the crowd promises to tell a story we're never given the opportunity to hear: Wadleigh's film is about the experience, not the individual... his is a production of spirit and fervor, not of biographies and destinations. He treats Woodstock as if it were an enormous, ever-evolving beast swarming with parasites intent on taking as much as they're afforded. His interest lies in dissecting the hippie subculture through candid footage, voyeuristic establishing shots, and lingering close-ups, not psychological analysis.
But its Wadleigh's editors, having tirelessly sifted through more than 365,000 feet of film, who bring his vision to startling life. The screen splits into two and three panels at a time, offering juxtaposed imagery and observational photography, often to the seeming delight of his subjects. Drug addicts and nudists alike freely flaunt their wares to a cold and nonjudgmental camera, singers and guitarists are bathed in a deluge of light and sound, and friends and lovers lose themselves in a throng of strangers. Both a staggering disconnect and an unbreakable bond develops between each and every person that appears on screen; they're oblivious to the fleeting and superficial nature of their love, yet they share a commonality beyond description. Therein lies the power of Wadleigh's Woodstock. As a documentary, it effortlessly captures the atmosphere of the festival without resorting to sentimentality or forgettable rhetoric. As a piece of art, it evokes the very emotions and feelings its subjects are experiencing. As a film, it offers countless characters amidst crisis, each one falling victim to the same delusion: that the rest of the world has stopped, ever so briefly, to share in their respite from the harsh realities of life. They seem all-too-ignorant of the very things they renounce, and resoundingly guilty of the naivety they reject.
And the stage performances? Absolutely electrifying. Each band gives their all, embracing
the swaying Bethel audience as if it were their last. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the copious
amounts of drugs freely circulating the concert, but the singers and musicians seem as genuinely
enraptured by the event as everyone attending. There's a raw, unfettered undercurrent to the
performances that feels as tangible today as I imagine it did forty years ago. Even though I'm a
relative pup myself (born too late for Woodstock, but just in time for Star Wars), digging
through Wadleigh's documentary answered every question I've ever had about why so many
people were drawn to Bethel... why so many considered the festival their generation's defining
moment. While I would never have the stomach for such an event -- watching young people
squander their lives on idealism, heroine, and tree-line trysts is disturbing at times, disquieting at
others -- I can see why so many men and women, frustrated with a war in Vietnam and haunted
by a persistent cultural disconnect, would find three days on a muddy hillside with more than
four-hundred thousand people so fulfilling. Perhaps that's what makes Woodstock such a
special film: it doesn't merely document a three-day music festival, it transports viewers into the
experience and allows them to examine it up close and from afar. Can we really ask for more?
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray, Video Quality
A thick river of rain streaks across the lens as another faceless hippie slides through a trough of muddy earth. A hazy-hued rock god disappears into the night, only to emerge when white-hot light erupts from every direction. A pixie-faced singer wanders through an unrelenting grain storm as the fading sun dips beneath the horizon near the stage. Such are the trials and travails of watching Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music, a documentary filmed in 1969, produced with limited means, completed despite dwindling supplies, and shot with ╔clair NPR cameras (chosen not for their aesthetic quality, but primarily for their ease of use and on-the-fly versatility). Colors bleed and warp, details sharpen and soften without warning, grain spikes and lulls at its own sick whim... the entire picture seems to succumb to the evolving madness of the festival with each passing minute.
Regardless, Warner's 1080p/VC-1 video transfer faithfully captures every fuzzy edge, fleck of grain, errant scratch, and out-of-focus detail that graced the miles of film captured during the duration of the festival. Remastered from the documentary's original elements, scanned at 2K, and presented within a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the multi-paned image is actually quite striking. Not only does the rough-n-tumble presentation enhance the verve and vitality of the concert and its denizens, it fully encapsulates the unadulterated free-for-all of their desperate, disillusioned subculture. It may not be pretty, but it would be nearly impossible to produce a more precise and polished technical transfer. In fact, aside from the appearance of some unnecessary (albeit minor) edge enhancement and a bit of faint artifacting (that occasionally invades the foreground when the stage lights drown an evening performance in vibrant primary colors), I can't imagine the film looking much better than it does here.
It isn't the sort of presentation that will ever stack up against the latest Blu-ray releases on
the market, but Warner has given Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music a respectful,
high-quality transfer that renders its source with the utmost care. Anyone approaching this disc
with appropriate expectations will be more than pleased with the results.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Likewise, the majority of ills that afflict Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music should
be attributed to the film's original source rather than Warner's strong and steady Dolby TrueHD
5.1 surround track. Storm clouds loom with convincing LFE support, rainfall helps create a
relatively immersive soundfield, and the roar of the crowd naturally expands into the rear
speakers as some of rock's most legendary artists take the stage. Sure, the quality of each
song's presentation is a bit uneven (background noise, air hiss, and other unavoidable anomalies
continually impact clarity and intelligibility), but the various performances sound relatively
fantastic: the rapid twang of Crosby, Stills & Nash's guitars are crisp and convincing, the
spirited abandon of The Who is bolstered by startling dynamics and stable treble pitches, and the
iconic wheen of Hendrix's solos cut through the hum of the summer air and stretch into
every speaker. While a variety of inherent issues will inevitably distract the obsessive-compulsive
among you -- this is, after all, a late '60s documentary whose filmmakers had to overcome
budget constraints and equipment limitations -- true audiophiles will revel in the authenticity of
the experience. I never quite felt as if I were sitting amongst the hippies and flower children
attending the festival, but I came close on more than one occasion. My advice? Arm yourself
with reasonable expectations, sit down, sit back, and enjoy this captivating lossless presentation.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In addition to the mammoth 224-minute cut of the film, the Blu-ray edition of Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music comes packaged in an elaborate 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Box, includes a slew of goodies, and boasts a generous collection of regular and exclusive special features. The bundle itself is both attractive and sturdy (albeit a bit complicated when you first dig in): after you disregard the plastic retail sleeve, the faux-deerskin shell (with removable iron-on patch) is a nostalgic sight to behold. From there, you'll find a lightweight box tucked snuggly inside that houses a standard-sized Blu-ray case, a weighty lenticular lucite display piece, a small 60-page reprint of an issue of LIFE Magazine, a concert fact sheet, reproductions of handwritten notes, a three-day ticket, and a handy envelope to hold it all together. The box will appeal to enthusiasts who have plenty of room on their shelves and casual fans interested in shedding the set's excess baggage in favor of the standard Blu-ray case buried inside.
As an added incentive, Amazon.com has packed 20-minutes of exclusive bonus performances
onto the set's second disc. While the online outlet previously reported their exclusive version
would be a 3-disc set, they've since corrected their listing and clarified the manner in which their
exclusive content is being made available. Also note that other stores (Target among them) are
apparently offering their own unique exclusive content as well.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music is simply a marvelous release. Sure, it comes
bundled with all the requisite materials becoming of a 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition giftset,
but it offers so much more: a glimpse into a defining moment in American culture, a stirring
exploration of a generation-changing event, live footage of some of rock-n-roll's most influential
icons, a four-hour director's cut of the film itself, a faithful high definition video transfer, an
engrossing TrueHD audio mix, more than two hours of additional performances (many of which
have never been released before now), over an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes... I could go
on and on. Whether you're old enough to have felt the allure of Woodstock or young enough to
wonder what the fuss was all about, the Blu-ray edition of Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace &
Music should either be on your Wish List or in your Shopping Cart.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music: Other Editions
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Deal of the Day: Woodstock Blu-ray for $26.99 - May 19, 2010
Amazon has an interesting BD-related deal of the day going on. Today only, you can buy the monumental 1970 concert movie Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music: Ultimate Collector's Edition for only $26.99 (61% off MSRP). This offer expires today at midnight PDT, or ...
• Woodstock Blu-ray Ships 300,000 Copies - August 7, 2009
Since it was released on June 9, the BD edition of 'Woodstock: 30 Days of Peace and Music Director's Cut Ultimate Collector's Edition' has shipped 300,000 units to retail since its June 9 release and sold through 50% of those units to consumers, according ...
• Today on Blu-ray - June 9th - June 9, 2009
With over 50 years in front of the camera, and over 30 years behind it, Clint Eastwood's dynamic ability to entertain audiences worldwide has yielded the 79-year-old icon many Oscar statues. Today, Warner Brothers is releasing his latest film 'Gran Torino' on Blu-ray, ...
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