2009-09-25 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

'Taking Woodstock' - How The Happening Happened

By Robert Snyder

One reason why the legendary Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969 was so benignly mellow may have been because the people behind it were benignly mellow. At least, that's the way Director Ang Lee sees it in "Taking Woodstock."

Based on the memoir by previously unknown, but apparently important Woodstock organizer Elliot Tiber (né Teichberg), the film says that the hippie era's most momentous event is actually series of false-starts, accidents, mistakes and coincidences that hinge on an oblique brainstorm by the author himself.

It seems that Woodstock Ventures is unable to secure a concert permit at Wallkill in the Catskills, New York. Having pre-sold 100,000 tickets, the group led by Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) finds itself courting Eliot (Demetri Martin), who heads the tiny town of Bethel's Chamber of Commerce, for permission to have a few up-andcoming rock acts (Janis Joplin, The Who, Crosby, Stills and Nash) perform on August 15 through 18 on the grounds of the dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy). Under harassment by his dominating mother Sonia (Imelda Staunton) to bring business to her dumpy motel, Elliot connects the dots, does the deal and unwittingly offers a "free" concert during a radio press conference. The result is an onslaught of half a million pilgrims clogging the New York State Thruway as they descend on Bethel for "3 Days of Peace and Music."

A semi-closetted gay interior decorator, Elliot at first is withdrawn enough to make Benjamin Braddock of "The Graduate" look like a wild man. But pot, psychedelic drugs and the apocalyptic

partying of the Woodstock weekend put an end to his uptightness. Even his mother loosens up with some hash brownies.

The big revelation about "Taking Woodstock" is that it's a rock movie without any rock music, on stage at any rate. Elliot gets so caught up in the good vibes he misses the show.

Maybe that's the point: The real Woodstock is within.

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