Monterey Pop

"Excellent"

Monterey Pop Review


For those of us who weren't yet born when the 1960's rock 'n' rolled around, Monterey Pop affords an affectionate glimpse of the music that influenced our parents to be hippies. From Otis Redding to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin to the Mamas and the Papas, and Jefferson Airplane to The Who, this documentary is jam-packed with contagious energy. But I give fair warning that I will reveal the ending, which does not do the rest of the film the justice it deserves.

Shot in 1969 at an outdoor concert that precluded Woodstock, the film defies the stereotype of the general population at the time. Sure, some have painted their faces and smoke joints, but D.A. Pennebaker (The War Room, Moon Over Broadway) surprisingly chooses to show a broad spectrum of the audience. No matter who is watching, it all comes back to the talented musicians that stir your soul.

The excitement starts before the music even begins. A young girl is cleaning thousands of seats and when asked why by an interviewer, she replies that she feels lucky to do so. There are moments of organized craziness as John Phillips, leader of the Mamas and the Papas and one of the concert organizers, tries to get in touch with Dionne Warwick. And when one band is tuning up, a member remarks, "Finally, a decent sound system!"

You can tell just by watching these first few moments that this show isn't about vanity, it's about playing the music you love to those who have an appreciation for it, a two-way street. This interaction between audience and performer continues throughout the film and becomes infectious to the audience.

It's impossible to tear your eyes away from Janis Joplin as she belts out her ballad about love being a ball and chain. And while the lyrics to "Wild Thing" may not be all that complicated, watching Jimi Hendrix mime having sex with his guitar is as captivating as Otis Redding singing about love. Even if you don't recognize every band you see on stage, you can imagine being as enthralled by their work as the public sitting in those seats.

The only drawback to the film is the ending, which unfortunately I must reveal. All the other bands, big names then and still today, got approximately 7 to 10 minutes of screen time. In contrast, the last band on camera, a wholly forgettable one, gets an entire 18 minutes of screen time. For a film that's only 78 minutes long, that's too large of a chunk, especially when previous acts are much more stimulating.

All in all, Monterey Pop is a precious, rare look at a time period that still holds sway over us. The variety of music, as well as the beautifully shot performances, are easy to become immersed in. If there was ever any question as to why most of these bands were so popular, this is quickly dispelled. It's almost depressing to think that music this moving doesn't get made much anymore. Instead we're stuck with *Nsync, the Backstreet Boys, and Jennifer Lopez, all of whom should have stuck with modeling.

The film is now available on a standalone single disc or as part of the three-disc set, complete with extra footage and outtakes. You can also buy the extra footake (Jimi Plays Monterey/Shake! Otis at Monterey) separately. Each of these movies also has a bonus interview attached.



Monterey Pop

Facts and Figures

Run time: 78 mins

In Theaters: Monday 2nd June 1969

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Production compaines: The Foundation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 16

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: Scott McKenzie as Performer, as Performers (as Mamas and the Papas), 'Mama' Cass Elliot as Performers (as Mamas and the Papas), as Performers (as Mamas and the Papas), Frank Cook as Performers (as Canned Heat), Bob Hite as Performers (as Canned Heat), Henry Vestine as Performers (as Canned Heat), Alan Wilson as Performers (as Canned Heat), as Performers (as Simon and Garfunkel), as Performers (as Simon and Garfunkel), Hugh Masekela as Performer, Marty Balin as Performers (as Jefferson Airplane), Jack Casady as Performers (as Jefferson Airplane), Spencer Dryden as Performers (as Jefferson Airplane), Paul Kantner as Performers (as Jefferson Airplane), Jorma Kaukonen as Performers (as Jefferson Airplane), as Performer, with Jefferson Airplane, Peter Albin as Performers (as Big Brother and The Holding Company), Sam Andrew as Performers (as Big Brother and The Holding Company), Dave Getz as Performers (as Big Brother and The Holding Company), James Gurley as Performers (as Big Brother and The Holding Company), Larry Taylor as Performers, as Performer, Eric Burdon as Performers (as Eric Burdon and The Animals), Vic Briggs as Performers (as Eric Burdon and The Animals), Barry Jenkins as Performers (as Eric Burdon and The Animals), Danny McCulloch as Performers (as Eric Burdon and The Animals), John Weider as Performers (as Eric Burdon and The Animals), John Entwistle as Performers (as The Who), as Performers (as The Who), as Performers (as The Who), as Performers (as The Who), Bruce Barthol as Performers (as Country Joe and The Fish), as Performers (as Country Joe and The Fish), Chicken Hirsh as Performers (as Country Joe and The Fish), Country Joe McDonald as Performers (as Country Joe and The Fish), Barry Melton as Performers (as Country Joe and The Fish), as Performer, as Performer, as Performer, as Performer

Also starring:

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