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Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music Reviews

WOODSTOCK: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT is Michael Wadleigh's Academy Award-winning documentary about the 1969 Woodstock music festival, with an additional 56 minutes, a freshly remixed soundtrack in an enhanced digital format, and previously unseen footage of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane in concert. The original WOODSTOCK, released in 1970, featured memorable performances by Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Country Joe and the Fish, John Sebastian, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After, Santana, and The Who, all of which are rendered intact in this extended film. Moreover, the original, which included among its editors a young Martin Scorsese, brilliantly, and often humorously, captured the makeshift community of that end-of-the-60s occasion, whose innocence now looks almost quaint. For most of those who have seen the original 184-minute version of WOODSTOCK, the focus here will be on the added footage, which fits seamlessly into the total fabric, save for the Joplin segment. The latter captures the legendary blues singer's heartfelt vocals but fails to match them up with anything comparable in terms of visuals. Indeed, this sequence is little more than a choppy succession of photographic stills, the cinematic equivalent of a paste-up job. If the 1960s political thrust of the movie is somewhat blunted by the passage of time, the historical, even archival, import of Wadleigh's accomplishment is all the more striking. This is a documentary in the purest sense of that word, in that it "documents" a social and cultural benchmark, the coming together of more than 400,000 young people in the meadows of a dairy farm in upstate New York for what was billed as "three days of peace and music"--but turned out to be much more. Not only did Woodstock give its name to an entire generation, but the festival came to symbolize the optimism of that generation, which would soon be tempered by darker realities. While the film emphasizes the music performances, Wadleigh's cameras constantly roam the crowd, often splitting the wide screen for contrast, chronicling the emerging community, the "experience" of the festival, its humor, passion, inconvenience (overcrowding, rainstorms, etc.) and, ultimately, its significance. WOODSTOCK, the original, was a great documentary. WOODSTOCK (THE DIRECTOR'S CUT) is a great documentary that's nearly an hour longer. (Profanity, nudity.)