Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music - The Director's Cut Michael Wadleigh

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music - The Director's CutMichael Wadleigh
This August marks the 40th anniversary of the defining moment for the peace movement in '60s America: the Woodstock Festival. More than 400,000 people attended the idealistic celebration in New York State and the entire proceedings were filmed by director Michael Wadleigh and his crew for the titular film. This set doesn't represent the first time that the Oscar-winning documentary has been released on DVD but a new transfer has improved both the audio and visuals. Featuring the 224-minute Director's Cut, the disc is a little on the gruelling side but considering that around 120 hours of footage were shot, it could have been a lot longer. If it was a straight-up concert movie, the length would make it rather unappetising but what Woodstock does so successfully is demonstrate that the festival wasn't just about the music. It punctuates the performances with many interviews with attendees, locals and those working at the festival, and they almost become the most interesting element. Watching the movie on Blu-Ray, however, might be a little redundant simply because of the way the documentary was shot in the first place on a fleet of 16mm cameras. That translates into grainy visuals that are definitely not immune to the ravages of time. Yet the imperfect look of the film adds to the atmosphere of the event, keeping it as an ideal document of a once-in-a-lifetime concert. The use of split-screens might not be as revolutionary as it was at the time but still adds an extra dimension to the film, especially during the concert footage. The second disc contains the extras, most notably the very enjoyable "Untold Stories" feature, which contains 143 minutes of unreleased live performances from the weekend, including some bands that never made it into the original movie, such as the Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival. "Woodstock: From Festival to Feature" brings together a series of three- and four-minute featurettes of varying quality about making the movie, with interviews with the likes of Wadleigh and Martin Scorsese, who was one of the editors on the project. The Ultimate Collector's Edition comes housed in a rather elaborate slipcase that resembles a fringed suede jacket adorned with an iron-on Woodstock patch, containing the Blu-Ray discs and a generous collection of extra goodies. The most conspicuous is a Lucite lenticular paperweight with three images from the festival, but the most worthwhile is a reproduction of the commemorative issue of LIFE Magazine, which has some wonderful photos from the day. Add to that reproductions of a ticket and some of the many messages left from separated festivalgoers and this really is the ultimate version of the ultimate music festival. (Warner)