Ang Lee’s new film TAKING WOODSTOCK is a sweet, fun, recreation of a moment in history as seen through the eyes of someone intimately involved, and yet still outside.
Lee and longtime writing/producing partner James Schamus decided that, after BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and LUST, CAUTION, they wanted to step away from heavy subject matter and tell a lighter tale. So they turned to Elliot Tiber’s book with Tom Monte, TAKING WOODSTOCK. And light it is. But it’s also fun and charming. There are a few poignant moments, but nothing unexpected. This is not a film filled with surprises, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a sweet tale, well cast, and it’s a joy to watch.
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I recently re-watched the award-winning documentary WOODSTOCK: 3 DAYS OF PEACE AND MUSIC: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. I can’t recommend highly enough taking in this doc before TAKING WOODSTOCK. It is in no way crucial to the experience, but it heightens it immensely. Many of the names and faces one comes in contact with in WOODSTOCK, fill the background of TAKING WOODSTOCK, as well as being incorporated into leading roles. My personal feeling is that experiencing WOODSTOCK the film allowed me to have a larger sense of what was happening on the periphery of TAKING WOODSTOCK. Together, the two films paint a terrific picture. And while both stand just fine on their own merits, the two compliment one another wonderfully and I can’t recommend highly enough watching the doc first if you either never saw it, or were thinking it’s time to see it again.
Lee’s recreation never contradicts the reality of Woodstock, it simply adds more flavor to the event and paints a loving picture of some of the journeys that may have taken place there. And despite the fact that many of the characters are familiar cliches of the era, they still resonate with the director’s apparent affection for them.
The film also contains one of my favorite LSD trips captured on film to date. And what would a film about Woodstock be without an LSD trip or two?
So run out and rent yourself a copy of WOODSTOCK: 3 DAYS OF PEACE AND MUSIC: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT, then take in a matinee of TAKING WOODSTOCK to complete the journey. And remember, this one’s just meant to be charming, fun and entertaining. And at that, it succeeds.