While there are numerous docs and books on the now mind numbing, legendary gathering of the masses for a weekend of music and human connection, Barbara Kopple used the archival footage from early documentary filmmakers (including a young, seriously-focused Thelma Schoonmaker) intertwined with recently-discovered treasure trove of memories, personal photo stashes and artistic renditions.
It's the sights and sounds that have the most impact; however, as there were many in the audience who were participants reliving the event that so many (including myself) could only wish they could have been. Barbara Kopple goes beyond the obvious and finds elements that connect and enliven the main event presented- from a Craigslist posting, an attendee who had just arrived in the U.S. and found himself on the road to Woodstock, a new generation of student musicians from the School of Rock, framed Woodstock admission tickets numbers 1 & 2, a high school student's assignment who wrote for and received a press pass, led to amazing photographs never seen before, a couple who met at Woodstock frolick with their grandchildren forty years later, an artist from another country, who like so many, heard about the event but couldn't be there, has a comic book version highlighting the now-famous stories.
While I was on the way to Woodstock, I had the soundtrack blasting, taking me back on a long strange trip through my own turbulent adolescent years. From the opening scene, the music took me in and didn't let go. Watching the performances that the Woodstock audience themselves had missed is a wonderful experience interspersed with behind-the-scenes backstories and how things turned out through sheer willpower (NO RAIN). The final day (Monday morning) with Jimi Hendrix (scheduled to be on stage Sunday afternoon) who performed before the remaining 40,000 proving the adage that the best things come to those who don't (or can't) get up on time. True in this case and I stayed with this film until the last credits roll. Truly a fitting way to open the Woodstock Film Festival going on from Wednesday, September 30 through Sunday, October 4, 2009.