DVD Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Ang Lee’s Take on Historic Rock Concert Arrives on DVD
On August 15, 1969, over a half-million young people descended upon the Catskills Mountains in upstate
The organizers were facing the grim prospect of having to cancel their well-publicized show entirely, when they found a sympathetic bureaucrat in Elliot Teichberg (Demetri Martin), the President of Bethel’s Chamber of Commerce. Quite by coincidence, Elliot already happened to have a valid permit to stage a relatively-modest, annual outdoor concert featuring a few local bands. So, he happily transferred his rights over to promoter Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) who had over 30 acts booked and ready to go, including such rock and roll greats as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Jefferson Airplane and The Who, to name a few.
In 2007, Elliot published, Taking
So, don’t expect to see any footage of classic performances, because Elliot spends his time here far removed from the music and the limelight. Instead, he’s busy working as a Jack-of-all-trades at the 80-room motel owned by his immigrant parents, Sonia (Imelda Staunton) and Jake (Henry Goodman), Jewish Holocaust survivors. Their dilapidated “resort,” ordinarily one of the least-popular tourist spots in the Borscht Belt, suddenly finds itself filled beyond capacity, despite just being cited for 47 health code violations.
Most of the humorous exchanges which ensue emanate from the stark contrast between the local yokels and the trippy hippies overrunning the region. Elliot’s parents prove particularly hilarious, as they hurl their Yiddish epithets like “Schmuck!” “Schnook!” and “Meshuggah!” while fleecing hippies by charging for tap water and triple-renting rooms. Their avaricious antics are constantly juxtaposed against the specter of laidback flower children exclaiming “Groovy!” while getting stoned and cavorting in the nude.
Curiously, what bubbles to the surface amidst all the weirdness is a poignant picture of Elliot as awkwardly suspended between two equally-wacky, parallel universes, a sensitive soul never quite feeling comfortable in either. For, he’s a homosexual living in the closet. Ang Lee effectively employs iconic
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, drug use and graphic nudity.
Running time: 121 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Feature commentary with Ang Lee and author James Schamus, and a featurette entitled “Peace, Love and Cinema.”