Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the movie trailer for Taking Woodstock.
Okay, I confess, and confess so publicly, that while I am a certified proud member of the generation of ’68, the political branch of that generation, I was not even remotely near Woodstock, New York on that fateful August weekend of 1969 when the myth of "youth nation" took on a certain substantive possibility that we might, after all, make a “newer world.” Others may have regrets that they did not attend but, I, unlike non-attendee Joni Mitchell, whose words from her song Woodstock form part of the headline for this sketch, do not.
I, actually, was heading elsewhere, heading hard elsewhere on the hitchhike highway road in search of the blue-pink great American West night that was another branch of that same experience. That experience I am very happy that I undertook, and have written about elsewhere. The center of that experience was being “on the bus,” year two on the bus, with Captain Crunch (real name, Jack Samuels) and his post-Kesey band of merry pranksters travelling the yellow brick magical mystery tour road (a.k.a. running up and down the Pacific Coast Highway), searching for dreams, butterfly swirls, and what turned out to a forty-year friendship with one Peter Paul Markin and his bagful of political ideas that have driven him, and indirectly me, over that time.
That said, we were, wherever we were, in those times, at least those of us who were fighting for some version of that “newer world” seeking, children of Woodstock. Maybe not that particular experience, after all half a million people hardly exhausted the numbers who were “searching” in those days, but some experience be it another of the myriad musical festivals that took place in those years, or a communal living experience, or like me, a highway hitchhike break-out in search of the great American West night. Or just took a “hit” of dope (hell, maybe a bong-full, inhaled) or popped a pill that in earlier or later times would have been scorned. It is under that sign the renowned director Ang Lee has cinematically creatively taken a back story from those times, Taking Woodstock, a back story centered on the locals rather than the rock stars or the “hippie” touristas associated with the name Woodstock, and meshed it with one of the local’s self-discovery in 2009, the 40th anniversary year of that event.
Whatever Woodstock, the place, and its environs were after the festival invasion before that event it was a dying Catskills resort area and farmland. That resort idea is central to the story line here. The Catskills, in the old days, before there was more widespread assimilation and Jews began to be accepted in other locales was always associated with the place where they went for vacation and as a “proving ground” for up and coming Jewish entertainers. By 1969 that idea, and those places, were passé. However, not everybody got the word, especially not an old Jewish couple who were hanging on to their mortgaged to the hilt motel for dear life, despite the best efforts of their assimilated son, the central character, of the film.
They did hold, or rather he held, an important asset: permits to allow the festival to go on. The story, the Woodstock and self-discovery story, take off from that point as we view the trials and tribulations of producing this musical spectacle, its actual occurrence, and the sometimes funny experiences that mother, father, and son experience, including the mandatory drug experimentation, sex (hetero and homosexual), and rock ‘n’ roll. Is this the definitive study on Woodstock, on the 1960s counterculture, or on the generation of ’68’s jail break-out? No, hell no, but it is a very nicely done slice-of-life film around that seminal 1960s event. Nicely done, indeed.