Watching Woodstock is enough to give anyone the hippie hippie shakes. Was the music really that bad? Were the people really that stoned? Did the director believe he was creating a vital historical document rather than a lax, hysterical documentary? Probably. With rare exceptions (The Last Waltz, Divine Madness, Stop Making Sense) the main problem with concert films is their overweening sense of their own importance, a habit born in the Sixties (as many bad habits were) and which continues to this very day.

This applies equally to artistes as well as Events. The Event flicks want you to feel bad because you weren't there, you poor sad sucker, even when the event was Altamont (see Gimme Shelter) and what you missed was being beaten up and murdered by Hell's Angels. But then the Event films don't realise that they're locked up in a larger contradiction: they also want you to experience the excitement of the live and spontaneous, only there's all this cumbersome technology in the way. Everything's at a remove, including the performer's energy. There's no way to put the genie in the bottle without bottling the genie.

Which doesn't stop artistes from trying to distil their own immortal essence. No matter the attempts, the results are always the same (ah] stardom). Q: What's the difference between Dylan's Renaldo and Clare and Truth or Dare: In Bed with Madonna? A: None. Both feature faked backstage footage, close-ups of iconic faces contorted in creative agony (Joe Cocker, above) and the spectacle of showbiz egos gloriously out of control. Which does make them documentaries, if not in the manner intended.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments