Time Out says
Tue Apr 11 2006Like Glastonbury itself, Julien Temple’s engaged documentary-portrait of the 36-year-old festival is a chaotic and visceral experience of which it’s difficult to recall very many exact episodes. Nevertheless, after over two hours of this free-wheeling collage of bug-eyed students, violent hippies, drunk bands, disgruntled neighbours and nasty toilets, you’ll know that you’ve tasted the very essence of a strangely British phenonemon.
Temple’s approach was to sift through over 1,400 hours of footage from various sources (including the 1971 film ‘Glastonbury Fayre’) and to shoot more of his own at the festival between 2002 and 2005. He then edited his selection into a frenetic cut-and-paste job that is free of voiceover, commentary or even titles to introduce interviewees. Such calculated vagueness works, and the lingering impression is of a messy and hedonistic free-for-all that captures both the busy history and incomparable atmosphere of the event.
‘Glastonbury’ is neither concert movie nor linear history. Which is not to say there are no live performances (Blur, David Bowie, Velvet Underground, the Levellers, Björk, Morrissey and others all crop up), nor that various themes and arguments don’t emerge. In particular, by tracing the festival’s relationship with the traveller community, the film offers some insight into the history of dissent in late twentieth century Britain (the footage from the riots at Stonehenge in 1985 is especially captivating).
Although festival founder Michael Eavis commissioned the film himself, ‘Glastonbury’ still embraces the less attractive elements of its history – the erection of a mammoth perimeter-fence in 2002; the heavy-handedness of security guards; angry battles between travellers and Eavis – and deftly avoids misty-eyed mythologising. ‘The farm’s such a dead loss,’ argues a young Eavis when asked to explain his reasons for starting the festival. Glastonbury as pioneering and savvy capitalist diversification? This, and other contradictions, make ‘Glastonbury’ fascinating to watch.
Author: Dave Calhoun