Glastonbury: The Movie (3-Disc Special Edition) Review
"It's a mad world that we're living in!" Sung while a man shakes a maraca made out of an empty baked bean tin and a woman with a knot-top and no discernible sense of rhythm dances. It could only be Glastonbury. And not any old Glastonbury mind but a Glastonbury in between the early days of Tyrannosaurus Rex singing about pixies in a tent to an audience of 12 and the later Glastonburys of Oasis, Shirley Bassey and an enormous wall to keep the ticketless punters out. That's a Glastonbury full of people for whom the actual show sits well down on their list of priorities, somewhere after a bit of a smoke, drinking cider and enjoying the summer sun. Now it's less a place where you'll find bearded hippies talking metaphysics but this is, as the makers of this film put it, old-school Glastonbury where you could eat anything you liked as long as it included bean-curd, where a puppet show was as much of a draw as The Lemonheads and where it seemed as though Ozric Tentacles were playing somewhere on the site every minute of every day.
One suspects that the reputation of a film of a music festival stands on the bands it features. Looking through the track/chapter list for Glastonbury: The Movie is a sorry experience. Not only is there Ozric Tentacles, who are probably to be found anywhere where there is more than one tie-dyed shirt to be counted in a crowd, but there is also Porno For Pyros, Back To The Planet and a pre-Bittersweet Symphony Verve when every song ended in the kind of droning guitar lines that even Loop might have thought twice about. If the makers of Monterey Pop and Woodstock thanked their gods for The Who, Hendrix and, at Yasgur's farm, Sly Stone, the producers of this film must have wept into their 'special' brand of brownies on realising that their big name is Spiritualized. Actually, I'm not even sure that Spiritualized are a particularly big name even on the street on which Jason Spaceman lives never mind in the whole big pop world but in a film where The Orb and Little Fluffy Clouds only make it to the bonus features, Spiritualized is it. Then again, that's not really what Glastonbury is all about.
Instead, the makers of Glastonbury: The Movie have wisely decided to bring the punters of the festival to the screen. Yes, this does mean that every scene contains some punter hopelessly tapping out a rhythm on a snare drum, tambourine or an upturned tin of Quality Street but for all of that, there's some people dressed in lopsided papier mache masks, some folk driving around in a psychedelic car and a girl in a sleeping bag trying to preserve her modesty as she changes into a pink tie-dye dress. As well as tie-dye, there's half the world's supply of Dr Marten's boots being worn on the site and there's a worrying sense that far too many people were influenced by the kind of outfits sported by Ned's Atomic Dustbin. If any of these people moved in next door, you'd have the drugs squad onto them faster than they could light their first joss stick but gathered together in one place, their various theories on The Man are actually somewhat charming. Hopelessly misguided, yes, but charming nonetheless.
The vibes - it's catching! - are what matters at Glastonbury. One doesn't doubt that there are those who visit the festival in a clapped-out VW Campervan who hear or see not one band over the three days but, instead, simply wander about the vast site taking in the various alternative fayres, performance artists and cafes. Soaking up the sun, drinking beer and hearing The Orb from half-a-mile way is a good way to spend three days and Glastonbury: The Movie ably captures that side of the festival. Of particular interest are those that go nowhere near either the Pyramid or, as it was then, the NME stage but who play guitar around campfires, marvel at the vast crowds and hope for some peculiar site to visit them. Children, probably more than anyone, settle in immediately at Glastonbury. To them, there might be the anarchy of a Lord Of The Flies but it's one painted in paisley patterns with the sweet smell of burning weed and a fairground.
However, the real star of Glastonbury: The Movie is the weather. Unlike the occasional year in which biblical amounts of rain fell, 1993 was warm and sunny and lends the film the kind of sun-dappled look that only recently could you fake with CG. Glastonbury: The Movie looks beautiful, particularly in the sunrises and sunsets captured by the filmmakers. By doing the right thing by the weather and framing the opening of the festival by a misty pale-blue sunrise on the Friday and ending it with a warm orange sunset on the Sunday, Glastonbury: The Movie ends on a note of optimism. Such romance might well make one forget about the hours of awful rock and jazz that had to be endured but then, as this proves, Glastonbury is that rarest of things, a music festival where the actual music is not of any particular importance.
Glastonbury: The Movie does look good. The directors chose a look that's obviously been influenced by the rich colours of Super 8 and they've done well to capture it in a Cinemascope presentation. The colours are bright and intense and the DVD does a fine job in presenting this. With that Super 8 look in mind, the film can look as though it was occasionally mangled both physically and chemically but such is the actual design of the film. Certain scenes are no more steady than sunlight bouncing off water but the DVD handles all of this without complaint. It can be soft at times but, again, this appears to be an aesthetic decision by the producers with it not losing detail due to the transfer as much as it being slightly out of focus at the time of its making.
The three audio options are good ones. As well as a DD5.1 remix, there is DD2.0 Stereo and DD2.0 Surround mixes. To be honest, there isn't a great deal between them. The stereo mix is brightest while the 5.1 mix offers the least clarity but then impresses with its obvious use of the rear channels. These trade-offs leave one with a choice based on what is considered important. As noted before in these pages, I tend towards stereo for music and didn't find a problem with choosing that option for Glastonbury: The Movie.
Follow The Cow: There is no bonus material on the actual film - no commentary, for example - but there is this, in which a cow icon will appear on the screen that, when clicked, will take the viewer to thirty-nine further chapters, including The Orb, some pagans and more of that Banana Doughnuts woman. There isn't, however, a great deal to tempt one to view the film a second time in the hoping of landing The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds so, happily, the producers of this DVD allow the viewer to go directly to anything here from an onscreen menu.
Extra Live Material: This offers more songs from the acts featured in Glastonbury: The Movie, including Evan Dando's campfire set, more Spiritualized and - I skipped these bits! - more Ozric Tentacles, Back To The Planet and The Verve.
Extra Music: This audio-only bonus material includes more, sometimes lots more, by some of the bands featured in the main film. This includes more than an hour of The Co-Creators, an hour-and-a-half of Cabbage Head and Frends, nine minutes of The Verve and an hour of Omar. That's too much Omar even, I'm sure, for Mrs Omar.
Extra Spoken: Some backstage conversations with the acts in the film are included here but none of them, unlike their sets, last for very long suggesting that the likes of Jason Spaceman and Richard Verve have much more to say when performing, even if it is in a half-mumble, than when speaking.
If you can imagine how much material the makers of this film produced during their five days on the site, then you'll have some idea of how long this disc could last for if played all the way through several times. I would imagine that almost everything is collected here with each chapter offering three angles and eight different audio tracks. To be honest, it's not so much angles as this disc is offering as entirely new footage - anyone hoping for a shot of that showering woman from the front will be disappointed - and the extra audio tracks are just interviews or bits of drumming or flute-playing that happened elsewhere but this offers a very complete view of the festival including much of the material that didn't make it into the finished film. As a bonus, you can choose to watch this disc in a version called the Insanely Long Edit, which will play each of the three complete cuts of the film all the way through accompanied by each of the eight audio tracks in turn, a total of 38 hours of Glastonbury: The Movie.
Avalon (48m06s): Shown on Channel 4, this documentary ignores most of the Glastonbury festival and heads off to the Field Of Avalon, a festival-within-a-festival. Seen by those who don't venture far from it as the true spirit of Glastonbury, it's all teepees, pottery, clapped-out caravans and Roy Harper headlining on the stage and, later, around the campfire. Obviously, the success of the Field Of Avalon depends on the bands, the various stalls who've called in between West Country Fayres and whether the rain stays off but it seems to have retained much of the ramshackle spirit of Glastonbury as the main festival became better organised. Instead, this is a place where cabaret mixes with punk, where everything you can eat comes in a wholemeal flavour and where the big wheel of the main festival is a couple of swings for the kids. A fairly charming set of punters keeps this documentary moving along nicely. This is followed by a music video for Festival (7m35s) produced by the makers of Glastonbury: The Movie.
State Within A State (19m13s): There is a stone circle next to my house and every Summer and Winter Solstice, druids and hippies gather to watch the sunrise and the sunset. They bang a few drums, join arms around the stones and do whatever it is that druids do. A couple of years ago there was even a wedding there. It's a peaceful place and, thankfully, free of dreadful (and naked) hippies congregating once a year to play their awful hippie rock and hang about with their equally naked children. Back in the 1980s, Stonehenge wasn't so lucky and played host, whether it wanted to or not, to various tribes at a festival to celebrate the summer solstice. I'm not sure what happened in those years when the summer solstice fell on signing-on day - I suspect the festival was rather empty those years - but this documentary follows what happens in 1984, the last year of the festival. There's lots on drugs, so many conspiracy theories that the Internet would be proud and some policemen who, in the nature of bobbies standing about on the open road, have nothing to say.
Bazza's Puntercam (72m14s): Bazza is a New Zealander who took up the challenge set by the makers of this film to walk around the site with a High 8 camera and interview the punters. Setting off early in the morning to catch people as they're walking up and grabbing breakfast, this is a tour of the site featuring those who attended it and who, by whatever means, enjoyed themselves. More drums, more talk of freedom and vibes and lots more people who suddenly look embarrassed as Bazza shoves his video camera in their faces.
The Locals (24m29s): They don't like the travellers. Nor people pissing in their lawns. Nor the noise. Nor the traffic. Nor travellers...did I mention their not liking travellers? The locals aren't very keen on Michael Eavis' festival and with the exception of a barman, they don't have very many good things to say about Glastonbury.
Visual Noise Gallery (2m22s): Oooh...Banksy! The Guardian will be thrilled! This features the work of the graffiti artists who, in the words of the makers of this DVD, "...noise-up the hoardings and baffles at Glasto." Showing that indecipherable writing, tags and people scribbling 'cunt' with in spray paint are not confined to the London Underground, this presents two minutes of graffiti from Glastonbury.
The Miniscule Of Sound: The world's smallest nightclub, roughly the size of a Portaloo, was present at Glastonbury and is celebrated in three features, Retro Sound Of London (12m47s), A Miniscule Glasto Wedding (6m52s) and World Record Attempt (2m41s). I guess had to be (one of the very few to actually fit in) there.
HoFuN: Like an Adam Curtis documentary remixed by Llamasoft, this features five audio/video remixes of archive material set to electronica and various psychedelic effects and posted about the Glastonbury site. As well as Charade (10m35s), which is a remix of the Audrey Hepburn film, the set also includes Revolution (4m30s, ft. William Shatner), Revelation (3m40s, more Shatner), England Awake (3m40s, green and pleasant lands, royalty and William Blake) and Touchomatic (3m50s).
Cereal Killer (12m40s): This short comedy drama was produced by the same team as Glastonbury: The Movie and features a teen slacker who lives at home with his gran who after watching a horror movie, decides to rid himself of his gran over breakfast but which leads a new career in medicine.
Soundtrack (79m39s): This audio-only extra features all of the music from the main feature but without any means to skip or jump directly to a track.
TV Promos (12m09s): This sees the makers of Glastonbury: The Movie rifling through their old VHS tapes in search of promotional material and presenting it as a twelve-minute piece. No Barry Norman, though.
Trailers: This features three promos for Glastonbury: The Movie, including the Original Cinema Trailer (1m00s), the DVD Promo (1m20s) and a Mensch Films Graphics Reel (3m00s).
Johnnie Walker (14m05s): This audio-only extra sees the DJ interview directors Matt Salkeld and Rob Mahoney about their making of Glastonbury: The Movie and the film's original release.
Michael Eavis (13m45s): Again, an audio-only feature but a rough-and-ready one that sees the man behind Glastonbury interviewed by a friend of the filmmakers.
DVD ROM Features: As well as screen grabs, pack shots and backgrounds, there is a folder containing some of the archive material used in the HoFuN feature.
So there isn't a commentary but there is so much bonus material that I'm not sure that it needs one. Or it could have one but with so much else to play with, is there really sufficient interest in the filmmakers to listen to their thoughts on the making of the film. Wisely, they've let their cast speak for themselves. Perhaps this film is overshadowed by the release of Julien Temple's Glastonbury but this is a fine film that captures not the history or people behind the festival but those who make their way to Somerset, camp out for three days and enjoy the music, the drugs and the sunshine. As regards a film on Glastonbury, that's almost all that one can really ask of it.