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Films >> Woodstock (1970) >>

1) Purely as a piece of cinema, it is one of the finest documentaries ever made in the U.S. (Time)

2) The theme of a spellbound audience--rather than spell-binding musical performances--characterized Wadleigh's film. Thousands of fans sing along as festival volunteers, residents, and workers are continually interviewed further subordinating the musicians and their music. The music, in effect, becomes invisible. (Daniel Schowalter 89)

3) Woodstock is also notable because it tries to do more than photograph a concert, it wants to be a film. (Stanley Kauffman)

4) Rock music continues to be targeted as a cause for moral decay in society. (Daniel Schowalter)

5) Wadleigh's split-screen technique is a visual clue that Woodstock was not a convergent set of happenings, but rather a very complex event with many nuanced, disconnected, and sometimes disparate occurrences. (Thomas Kitts 722)

6) Best-selling author Allan Bloom claims that rock music has a "barbaric appeal to sexual desire ." He goes on to complain that rock music has risen "in an atmosphere in which there is no intellectual resistance to attempts to tap the rawest passions" and that "music is the medium of the human soul in its most ecstatic condition of wonder and terror." (Daniel Schowalter)

7) As I staggered out of the three-hour documentary overview of one of the more notable sociological phenomena of our era, a company functionary asked me how I liked the picture. With somewhat more mental agility than I usually muster when asked for an off-the-cuff answer to an impossible question, I replied: "I would have to say this. It was a total environmental experience." (Moira Walsh)

8) Tipper Gore, likewise a prominent critic of rock music, writes that "The drug-use messages that the Woodstock generation of rock bands began to convey . . . continue today." She argues that the pro-violence and pro-drug messages of heavy-metal and punk bands are a continuation, a development, of the cycle of decay begun in the late sixties. Like Bloom, and others such as the Parents' Music Resource Centre, she argues that the essential character of rock music posits it as a great harm to its auditors and that this condition can only worsen.
(Daniel Schowalter)

9) Woodstock walked a precarious tight rope, not just between corporate and counterculture values, but also between freedom and chaos. There was a sense at Woodstock that the peace and harmony could come unglued at any moment. (Thomas Kitts 721)

10) Woodstock's perspective and commentary, then, not only defines festival goers as a passive mass, enraptured and enchanted by the music, but also "depoliticizes" them. Woodstock explicitly subverts the myth of a politically oppositional and potent collectivity--a task made easy and done persuasively in light of their entranced state. Though itself invisible, the dangerous and powerful effects of rock music are becoming clear. (Daniel Schowalter 92)

11) When people tell me Woodstock was great, I know they saw the movie and they weren't at the gig. (Barry Melton, qtd. in Kitts 722)

12) Wadleigh focuses the narrative on the festival-goers in Woodstock, leaving the music invisible. The importance of this, however, is not the masses but what their condition has become. Woodstock leaves little to the imagination. The masses have become passive and enraptured by the mind-numbing effects of rock and roll. Musician and fan alike have become enchanted and implicitly lose their sense of agency, and even their ability for collective political opposition.
(Daniel Schowalter)

13) Wadleigh reveals the tensions and contradiction of the festival through images with underlying ambiguities. (Thomas Kitts 722)

14) Woodstock provides an accurate insight into the "blow-your-mind," drug-oriented nirvana of what its proponents like to call a "sub-culture." (Tatiana Balkoff Drowne)

15) “There are times when it's easy to think that the rock and roll musician is the most militant, subversive, effective, whole, to-gether, powerful force for radical change on this planet. Other times you know it’s true. The Great Speckled Bird, 1969.” (Daniel Schowalter)

16) So without sacrificing all the world's connotations, it wouldn't really be legitimate to describe Woodstock as a new kind of musical, but it does point one way in which the American cinema is developing. (David Pine)

17) The remarkable Joe Cocker, whose waltz-dirge-dirvish version of With a Little Help from My Friends, elevated me to a realm of primal ecstacy (it's not quite as mystique-laiden as it sounds: I simply forgot I was representing a serious journal of opinion, tapped my feet, sang out loud, and was happy), needed no multiple posures or witty editing. (Richard Corliss)

18) In effect, the festival is still going on -- with stunning good humor and relentlessly -- in this movie. (Vincent Canby)

19) When viewed as a totality, however, as part and parcel of the same cultural impulse, Woodstock and Gimme Shelter form a coherent and compelling narrative which traces the dangerous and profound "effects" of rock music on its fans as manifested at rock festivals. (Daniel Schowalter)

20) Altogether, the film is a valuable piece of contemporary documentation, by turns funny, sad and provocative and it will probably be ten years before we can assess its significance. (Moira Walsh)