Sunday, July 3, 2011
Film Journal: Monterey Pop (1968, D.A. Pennebaker)
Director D.A. Pennebaker's (Don't Look Back) documentary about the 1967 Monterey Pop Music Festival is a true snapshot of the hippie culture. Not only is the music of the subculture heavily featured but Pennebaker also spends just as much time focusing his camera on the people in the audience as they groove along to the various music acts while looking like "cliche hippies." It's a pretty incredible portrait of this long gone generation, but it also is a mixed bag for me.
I simply don't get a lot of these music acts and Pennebaker's camera does not cut away for minutes at a time as these abstract rock bands jam out for minutes and minutes to no end. This makes a certain performance go from cool, to interesting, to boring quickly. I could tolerate this a little bit, but when I am on minute 7 of a 10 minute sitar solo I start to want to check my watch.
Having said that, some of these performances are absolutely incredible to watch. The two performances that really stand out for me are Janis Joplin and Ottis Redding's performances. It's easy to see why both musicians are now considered legends after you see how much they really stand out next to such big name acts like The Who or even Jimi Hendrix.
Speaking of Hendrix - it's also really cool to finally see his iconic performance of Wild Thing where he ends the song by burning his guitar before smashing it to pieces in context. There really is a unique presence when he is on screen.