Movie Diary: Monterey Pop.

Two nights ago, I caught D.A. Pennebaker's "Monterey Pop" on Sundance. That was an interesting movie. Remember how I objected to "Wattstax" on the basis that it wasn't enough of a concert film? I think maybe "Monterey Pop" was too much of a concert film. I mean, there were maybe 10 minutes, out of 80, in which a band was not playing. Now, the fact that the bands were pretty great helps to make up for that in a significant way, but when I watch a concert movie, I don't expect to see nothing but footage of bands playing, you know? Give me some context. Give me some entertaining footage of what was going on backstage, or whatever. There was a little bit of this, but really, not much. At all. But as far as the actual performances go, I guess it helps that there was some fucking insane stuff going on. The Who playing "My Generation" and smashing their equipment, Jimi Hendrix covering "Wild Thing" by the Troggs and setting his guitar on fire, Janis Joplin singing "Ball And Chain" and just about losing her shit while doing it--this was particularly incredible for me, as I'd never seen live footage of Janis before. No wonder she blew everyone's mind back then. She was giving me goosebumps. Incredible stage presence. Speaking of which, Otis Redding doing "I've Been Loving You Too Long" was equally stunning. So depressing to think that both of them were dead within 3 years of this being filmed. As for the other bands, I liked Jefferson Airplane and Simon and Garfunkel all right, though neither did songs that represent my favorite stuff by them. The same is doubly true for Eric Burdon's Animals, who covered "Paint It Black" by the Stones, and rather badly. Why didn't they do one of their awesome original songs like "Sky Pilot" or something? Bad choice by the director on that one. Hugh Masakela, a jazz musician I'd never heard before, was an interesting change of pace, and I get the idea that I'd really like his music. And the film closing with Ravi Shankar was a great idea. I'd never seen him play before either, and watching him and his tabla player just jam like crazy for 15 minutes was awesome. While the footage of the crowd that was shot during Hendrix's performance was mostly of people sitting slackjawed, seemingly not knowing how to react, the place went fucking nuts for Ravi, which was surprising to me considering the light the Hendrix performance is viewed in now. But hey, whatever.

On the whole, I guess the movie was good, but it really didn't feel like it justified itself as a movie rather than just a concert special on MTV or something. I know they didn't have MTV concert specials in the 60s, and I guess I understand that a movie would be the closest anyone would get to something like that, but I think what I really tend to look for in a concert film is something more like "Woodstock," which divides its time quite well between performances and documentation of what the experience of being at the show was actually like. Course, "Woodstock" is a three-hour film, so maybe something a bit shorter would have been in order, but still, I felt like "Monterey Pop" was a bit skimpy. Not as awesome as "Don't Look Back," that's for sure.



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