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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TAKING WOODSTOCK

By D.E.Levine

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: James Schamus (screenplay), Elliot Tiber (book) and Tom Monte (book)
Producers: Ang Lee and James Schamus
Executive Producers: Celia D. Costas
Associate Producers: Patrick Cupo and David Sauers
Cast: Henry Goodman, Edward Hibbert, Imelda Stauton, Demetri Martin, Kevin Chamberlin, Lee Wong, Anthoula Katsimatides, Clark Middleton, Bette Henritze, Sondra James, Jeffrey dean Morgan, Christina Kirk, Gail Martino, Emile Hirsch, Adam LeFevre, Eugene Levy, Andy Prosky, Dan Fogler, Carmel Amit, Zachary Booth, Jennifer Merrill, Ivan Sandomre, Matthew Shear, Darcy Biedsoe, Jesse Kile, Ashley Middlebrook, Bec Stupak, Gabriel Sunday, Jonathan Groff, Marrie Gummer, Stephen Kunken, Liev Schrieber, Kevin Sussman, Richard Thomas, Darren Pettie et al.
Original Music: Danny Elfman
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama, Musical

Forty years after the original dramatically peaceful, albeit soaked, Woodstock Concert, Ang Lee brings us a light comedy about Elliott Teichberg, a nice Jewish boy who was trying to help his parents keep afloat with their decrepit and dying upstate motel when he inadvertently helped the concert take place.

Although we never actually see or hear the Woodstock concert or any original recordings of it, this film focuses on the amusing behind the scenes events that took place before, during and after the concert.

Elliott unwittingly sets the wheels for the concert in motion when he learns that a nearby town has denied a permit for a large music concert. As a young Chamber of Commerce president, he decides to use the permit that he previously filed and had approved for his annual "artistic presentation" to bring the concert to White Lake.

He figures that his parents will be able to book the rooms of their El Monaco Motel. When the concert is switched to White Lake, Elliott is booking 12 to a room and his parents are raking in the cash.

The quiet Catskills community is transformed and when the concert planners discover that much of the El Monaco sits on swamp land, they barter with a neighboring dairy farmer for use of his cow pasture and he negotiates a very good deal for himself, with the stipulation that the cow pasture and neighboring land will be cleaned up after the concert (something we see at the end of the film).

Director Lee made use of New York theater actors (about 500) to create a crowd and used CGI enhancement to expand the crowd to 50,000. Everyone is tranquil, peaceful, polite, well-behaved, and even with the use of LSD, very mellow.

Except for the fact that the admission booths aren't operating so money isn't collected by the event planners, and the fact that the rain drenched earth became slick mud and traffic clogged the only road bringing traffic to a standstill for days (causing the governor to declare the area a disaster area), the concert goes splendidly.

The movie seems low key for such a major transforming event, but it is enjoyable and focuses primarily on the relationships of those individuals involved behind the scenes.