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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taking Woodstock wallows in 1960s nostalgia

click to enlarge THE ROAD MOST TRAVELED: VW girl (Kelli Garner, left), Elliot (Demetri Martin) and VW guy (Paul Dano)
  • THE ROAD MOST TRAVELED: VW girl (Kelli Garner, left), Elliot (Demetri Martin) and VW guy (Paul Dano)

The Woodstock music festival, aka “three days of peace and music,” celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, provoking plenty of rose-colored retrospectives. It seems almost redundant to have formal commemorations of Woodstock, since American pop culture has mythologized the event since its inception. You have to wonder if baby boomers were nostalgic over Woodstock even before it happened.

In Taking Woodstock, Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee attempts to dispel some of the event's Age of Aquarius lore. Moments of Taking Woodstock either affirm the festival's clichés or construct new ones, although the film’s centerpiece goes a long way to explain what all the fuss is about.

The opening credits establish the humble getaways of the Catskills in upstate New York. Among them is the town of Bethel's grandly titled El Monaco Resort and Hotel, a dilapidated motel managed by elderly Russian immigrants Sonia and Jake Teichberg (Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman, respectively). Their only son, Elliot (Demetri Martin), reluctantly helps out at the Monaco while hustling to establish a career as an artist/designer in Greenwich Village.

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(Image by Ken Regan)

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