Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
Two years before Woodstock, the rock festival was born and immediately hit its zenith in Monterey, California. John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas was on the organising committee: his band and Simon & Garfunkel were seen as the festival’s headliners, but it was the mind-boggling array of wilder, breaking talent that cemented this extraordinary moment in musical history captured in D.A. Pennebaker’s film.
The line-up was as eclectic as the dress code, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Who and – astounding a largely white audience who’d likely never seen a soul act before – Otis Redding. It’s a variety show for the ages, culminating in a mesmerising sitar performance by Ravi Shankar while a star-studded audience sit enthralled. The revelatory brilliance of the occasion shines clearer than ever in Criterion’s 50th anniversary 4K restoration, demanding this workout on a cinema sound system near you. Our return screening is designed to obliterate all memories of a sorry moment in our own glorious history – a NZIFF03 Pennebaker tribute screening plagued by early digital format issues.
“Though there’s considerable footage of hippie activity (crafting kites, sleeping) and moments of prelapsarian frisson (a cop warns that ‘there’s talk of the Hell’s Angels coming down’), the film is resolutely performance-driven, and ironically so: Michelle Phillips singing inaudibly during ‘California Dreamin’, Keith Moon going apeshit in the chaotic midst of ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’, Jimi Hendrix bringing his guitar to multiple orgasm and then administering a Ballardian smash-and-burn.” — Jessica Winter, Village Voice