Saturday, April 7, 2007

Please don't piss in the ditches

GLASTONBURY
(Julien Temple, UK, rated R, 138 mins.)


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Mrs. Matthew Barney

If you've seen the ads for Glastonbury, you've probably noticed the familiar visage of Chris Martin. If you're a Coldplay fan, you've probably been intrigued. If not, you've probably been turned off. Adding to the Lollapalooza vibe, the poster features splayed legs, peace signs, and the tagline, "The mud. The music. The madness."

Either way, you might have assumed the film documents one year at the world's longest-running music festival. That's what I was expecting -- and that's what Glastonbury: The Movie (1995) delivers -- but nothing could be further from the truth.

Directed by Julien Temple (The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, The Filth and the Fury), Glastonbury explores all aspects of the UK event, from its inception in 1970 up to 2005. What wasn't shot by Temple and his crew comes from previously existing footage, some shot by fans and some by pros, like Nicolas Roeg and producer
David Puttnam for Glastonbury Fayre (1972), Peter Neal's take on the early days.

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Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow
In other words, you can't really compare Glastonbury to Woodstock, Festival,
Message to Love, or even more contemporary films, like Coachella. It's a mash-up
of all the above -- from Terry Reid to Toots and the Maytals, Melanie to the Scissor Sisters, Richie Havens to, well, Coldplay [above], although festival regulars Van Morrison, Hawkwind, and Elvis Costello are conspicuous by their absence.
For me, the highlights are Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds ("Red Right Hand"), Pulp ("Common People"), and Björk ("Human Behavior"). (Radiohead's fine performance of "Fake Plastic Trees," unfortunately, isn't allowed to play in its entirety.)
Since Glastonbury is a full-on documentary, not a concert film, the focus isn't on complete sets. And when Temple does feature songs, which is often, there are
lots of cutaways (he was one of Britain's premiere video directors in the 1980s).
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Radiohead's Thom Yorke
That means the movie isn't just about the performers, but the millions of music lovers who've been traveling to the West Country for over 35 years. It's also about the festival workers, the townspeople, the travelers, the authorities, the gate-crashers, and festival founder and bushy-bearded dairy farmer Michael Eavis.
Although I enjoyed Glastonbury, the reviews have been mixed, and I'm not surprised. Those expecting a traditional concert film, will probably want to look elsewhere.
For a wide-ranging exploration of a major festival, however, this rambling document offers a wealth of riches, including -- or in spite of -- all the acid-addled hippies, lager-filled punkers, and ecstasy-fueled ravers (and most of the former are nude).
While I enjoyed a few fests back in the day, I no longer have the time or patience. Glastonbury allows music fans to enjoy the sights and sounds without having to experience the smells and other "fringe benefits" of the festival experience.
*****
Please don't shit in the hedges.
-- Sign on the Glastonbury grounds
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Pulp's Jarvis Cocker
I have no idea whether Temple's Joe Strummer doc (The Future is Unwritten) will play this year's SIFF, but I'm crossing my fingers. It garnered raves at Sundance, and seems like a great fit. Glastonbury is currently playing at the Varsity Theater. The Varsity is located at 4329 University Way N.E. For more information, please visit Landmark and/or THINKfilm. You can also call the Varsity at 206-781-5755.

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