3 stars (out of four)
"Glastonbury" is a record of England's "green and pleasant land" in the rock era, a portrait of the world's longest-running music festival and a suggestion of what might have happened here, if Woodstock had kept on chugging along to this day.
Directed and assembled by Julien Temple-one of the great rock moviemakers, the director of "The Filth and the Fury" and "Absolute Beginners" and the location director and creative consultant of "The Rolling Stones 'At the Max'"- he portrait is spectacular and inclusive, if sometimes a bit overwhelming and confusing. Footage from every Glastonbury festival since the first in 1970 is used, along with interviews with the fest's founder and long-time head Michael Eavis. The result is a hypnotic fresco of pop and good times.
First of all, the festival has a wonderful setting: in the green hills near Stonehenge, in the Vale of Avalon, a historic area that supposedly is the burial ground of King Arthur and the Holy Grail and the site of visits by Christ and Joseph of Arimathaea. Every year since 1970, with a few exceptions, the British love-and-peace generation and their spiritual descendants gather in the vale, amid huge stages, lights and a temporary city the size of Oxford. There they hear musicians such as Marc Bolan at the first fest-and David Bowie, Bjork, Primal Scream, Velvet Underground, Nick Cave, Paul McCartney, Dr. John and New Order, in the ones that followed.
Although I had to screen "Glastonbury" on several defective DVDs, the film captured me anyway. Many of the above acts are happily preserved in this film, which includes both professional footage (shot by Temple, largely in 2002, and by Nicolas Roeg in 1971), and amateur chronicles. We also get a broad, warm, witty look at the crowds over the years-proudly eccentric, freakish and down to earth, and having a ball. And, inevitably, we see or hear of dramatic battles with townspeople and the local government over licensing and crowds.
Best of all though, we get to experience the whole fest itself, over four turbulent decades-an era from which Glastonbury, like Woodstock in its day, offers a halcyon "timeout."
Directed by Julien Temple; photographed by Terry Flaxton, Ben Smithard, Temple; edited by Niven Howie, Tobias Zaldua; music by David Bowie, Bjork, Velvet Underground, others; produced by Robert Richards. A THINKFilm release; opens Friday. Running time: 2:18. MPAA rating: R (for nudity, drug use, language and some sexual content).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times