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

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Julien Temple Films
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
One of the most compelling documentary portraits of a musician yet made, Julien Temple's film about the former Clash musician acknowledges the legend while uncovering the truth.

Marc Savlov, Dec. 7, 2007

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

March 20, 2019

More by Marc Savlov
SXSW Film Review: <i>Daniel Isn’t Real</i>
Film Review: Daniel Isn’t Real
Enter the imaginary anti-friend

March 14, 2019

Raising Hell With the Legacy of Molly Ivins at SXSW
SXSW Film Review: Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins
Texas’ beloved crusading journalist gets her documentary due

March 12, 2019


Glastonbury, Julien Temple

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle