Woodstock doc: So much went so right 

At the end of Woodstock: Now & Then, I found myself crying -- probably for one of three reasons. Maybe it was the touching ending, where filmmaker Barbara Kopple shows us the results of lifelong love affairs that started at the festival. Or it might have been nostalgia for an era I was a little too young to experience.

But I think what turned on the waterworks was the idea that 400,000 kids could get together for three days of peace, music and love and have so much go so right.

Nobody panicked when the fences came down and the concert became free. No one freaked because kids frolicked naked. When there was little food, friends and neighbors pitched in to make sure everyone was fed. When it rained, kids played in the mud.

It was a dream come true and, sadly, it almost certainly couldn't be replicated today because everyone would be on Twitter and Facebook to complain the first time they had to wait in line.

This exceptional documentary never shies away from the bad things that happened -- the young man who was run over and killed, the bad acid trips, the financial follies, the 80 lawsuits that resulted. But overwhelmingly, Woodstock looks like a resounding success.

Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A., Wild Man Blues, Shut Up and Sing) rounds up dozens of participants -- organizers, financers, musicians, fans, reporters and makers of the Woodstock film -- to tell the story of how the concert that was put together in 27 days is still a cultural touchstone 40 years later.

Viewers will relive the music through snapshots of unforgettable moments like Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner," Santana's electrifying "Soul Sacrifice," Country Joe's "Fish Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" and Richie Havens' "Handsome Johnny." And there are plenty of stories behind the stories -- like festival organizer Michael Lang discussing the negotiations to use Max Yasgur's farm to stage Woodstock. (Lang is an executive producer of the film.)

But like the concert it documents, Woodstock: Now & Then also takes us to unexpected places. There's the artist who's drawing a comic book version of the Woodstock story. The then-teenage photographer whose pictures from that weekend have never been seen until now, according to the film. And, in a perfect touch, kids from the School of Rock performing songs from the festival.

Their joyful renditions of music that came two generations before them are enough to make you smile. Perhaps even cry.


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Marc D. Allan

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