If I was to be completely honest about it, I'd have to say that my disappointment at not being able to attend Woodstock had less to do with the possibility of experiencing the performances of Joplin, Hendrix, The Who, et al, than with my fourteen-year-old, hyper-hormonal self missing the opportunity to see a real, live nekkid hippie chick in the flesh.
Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock isn't anywhere near as adolescently single-minded in its obsessions, but in a similar way, music isn't really an issue for the film. The main character, Elliot Tiber -- played by Demetri Martin and based on the real-life guy who was instrumental in bringing the fest to Max Yasgur's farm -- never gets a chance to witness the fest, despite several abortive attempts. Instead, Woodstock is both a front-and-center catalyst for the film's drama and tangential influence for changes the characters, Elliot prime amongst them, will go through. Director Lee latches onto the almost universally familiar iconography -- mostly as was conveyed by Michael Wadleigh in Woodstock -- to give us an alt-view of events from the perspective of the locals, exploring how that chaos percolated down to affect small yet profound (Ang Lee, remember?) changes in those observers.
It's broad in its way -- there's a theater group that sheds its clothing at the slightest provocation, and Liev Schreiber turns up as an ex-marine-turned-quite-burly-transvestite (interestingly, comic actor Eugene Levy delivers a shrewd, nuanced performance as Max Yasgur) -- but it's in the service of a sweet and somewhat yearning examination of a period when people could dream of the world being better, and could imagine the steps that might be taken to make it so.
Click on the player below to hear my interview with Ang Lee.
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