Critics Not Taken With Taking Woodstock
Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock , which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival over the weekend, failed to touch off anything approaching the admiration among critics that his recent Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution did. A typical reaction was Sukhdev Sandhu's in the London Telegraph, who wrote that the movie is "almost too sweet for its own good, tasteful rather than transcendental." Daily Variety described it as "mild nostalgia at most, a curiously unambitious misfire." Lee told a Cannes news conference that he wanted to present "a romantic image of the late '60s, the last piece of innocence we had." (Yet the movie ends with a reference to the violence-plagued Altamont music festival, which took place a few months later -- the "anti-Woodstock," as it is sometimes called.) The plot takes place on the periphery of the music festival, and while Lee effectively recreates visually the initial psychedelic experience of the lead character, he makes no attempt to convey the sense of emotional and metaphysical fusion that virtually everyone who attended the festival describes to this day. Many of his scenes mimic the split-screen views of the festival goers presented in Michael Wadleigh's 1970 documentary. Lee said he used about 200 extras for those scenes and prepped them in what he called a "hippy camp." That, said Lee, was "the most challenging thing to do." Writer/producer James Schamus added that it was difficult casting young people today who looked like those in the documentary. "When you think about it, a generation of people who weren't fat, who weren't staring at themselves in the mirror all the time, and not shaving everything off down there, it captures the difference of 40 years right there."