2006, R, 138 min. Directed by Julien Temple.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 13, 2007
Fittingly, for an annual event of such epic breadth and sweep and stubborn longevity as England's Glastonbury Festival, this documentary begins with a solemn, stentorian narrator recalling the history of the area: "Epicenter of the spirits of Albion, resting place of the Holy Grail, burial site of King Arthur, that reconciler of Celt and Saxon, convergence of the power lines of the mind: Jerusalem." And then some cheeky bloke in a Land Rover (who turns out to be festival founder Michael Eavis) nods to the camera to add, just as fittingly, "But it's not real, is it?" before cutting to a whirlwind shot of some anonymous raver screaming "Give it to me, Glastonbury! We want it hardcore!" And that pretty much sums up the persistent, dueling allures of the largest and longest-running (since 1970) music festival in the world. Temple wisely foregoes the standard concert-film straightaway in favor of keeping an eye on the fans. As in D.A. Pennebaker's Depeche Mode 101, it's this swarming mass of humanity (some 300,000 strong), assembled first by dairy-farmer Eavis, that makes the film as exciting as it is. Anyone can go online these days and catch the event live via the BBC's consistently excellent webcasts, but Temple wants us to understand "Glasto" on a more intimate level. To do this he's linked together footage from several recent years with archival footage and then lets his cameras meander through the mucky, cow-flopped pitch, as Morrissey, Babyshambles, Pulp, the Velvet Underground, or David Bowie exult from the stage, providing both the memorable soundtrack to lives both young and old and an instant urge to go, see, and do. The only thing we Yanks have that even comes close is Burning Man, or maybe Coachella, but neither one fully rivals or expands upon Glasonbury's main theme of musical community. Temple knows his way around a revolutionary guitar squall, having previously helmed the Sex Pistols doc The Filth and the Fury and, long ago, the terrifically vapid Sex Pistols' not-quite-a-doc The Great Rock ’n' Roll Swindle, but here the sense of total immersion is breathlessly complete. The hippies, the ravers, the bumbling bobbies and nonplussed locals, the mud, the rush of being in the crush, up against the barricades, torn between the need for a restroom and the need for more room, to dance, to sing, to carry on like a stark loony regardless of your faraway day job – all of this is captured by Temple's unblinking, seemingly everywhere-at-once eye. AFS@Dobie