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TH!INKFilm presents
Glastonbury (2006)

"It's like Brigadoon. It just exists for like four or five days, and then disappears."
- Billy Bragg

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: June 20, 2007

Stars: Michael Eavis, Bjork, David Bowie, Billy Bragg, James Brown, Nick Cave, Morrissey, Joe Strummer, Coldplay, Faithless
Director: Julien Temple

MPAA Rating: R for nudity, drug use, language, and some sexual content
Run Time: 02h:18m:00s
Release Date: June 12, 2007
UPC: 821575550956
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+B+ B

DVD Review

Music lovers here in the states have only heard and seen glimpses of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, which takes place at Worthy Farm in South West England during most years. This three-day showcase for unique and premier artists from diverse genres continues to attract more than 100,000 people from around the world. This year's schedule includes The Who, Iggy & the Stooges, The Arcade Fire, Bjork, The Super Furry Animals, Bright Eyes and countless other talented acts. But the Glastonbury Festival is more than just another big-budget music showcase. The first version occurred in 1970, and while events did occur during that decade, it became an official affair in 1981. Since that time, Glastonbury has morphed from a small haven for hippies into a gigantic, big-budget extravaganza.

Directed by Julien Temple (The Filth and the Fury), Glastonbury chronicles the entire history of the festival in a chaotic montage of home-video and polished concert clips. Instead of choosing the "talking head" route, the former music video director crafts a collage of brief moments to present all of Glastonbury. Engaging live performances will come and go before you get the chance to appreciate them, while repeated shots of naked hippies and other drunken revelers quickly grow tedious. Although Temple seems to appreciate the music, he is far more interested in the silly antics of the audience. He's also fascinated by toilets. Numerous shots of rows of "Johnny on the Spots" and even less-sanitary conditions occupy far too much screen time. We're even treated to an intimate look at disposing the waste that offered more detail than I ever needed to see. On one hand, viewers who've never attended a large-scale musical festival will feel like they've been there. But our appreciation for this firsthand knowledge only goes so far.

The only consistent interview occurs with founder Michael Eavis, who still plays an active role in coordinating Glastonbury. Sporting a bushy chin beard that looks pretty similar to his look many years ago, Eavis offers his thoughts about the history while driving around the modern festival. He clearly played a significant role in this film's creation, and the interviews are nice, but they sometimes ramble and offer limited substance. One interesting description involves the growing wall, which started as a basic fence and now has become a serious barrier. They actually constructed two walls and use high-tech security to prevent gate-jumpers, which created extremely large crowds during the ‘90s. It's also notable to hear him discuss the shift away from the "new age travellers," a group of hippies who frequented music festivals for several decades. They once were welcome at Glastonbury, but the shift towards a larger scale and different clientele lead to their denial. The footage of their drug-induced ramblings and nasty behavior is not appealing, but they did have at least a mild innocence that's gone in the world of drunken frat guys. However, the decision to add security and change the traveller policies is understandable when you consider the huge sums of money involved in Glastonbury.

This documentary might not include a wealth of classic performances, but it does offer some memorable highlights that I would love to watch again. Coldplay's studio worked is sometimes mixed, but they deliver an excellent rendition of Politik to a massive crowd. Another great moment is Pulp's Common People, which combines perfectly with goofy audience footage to create a shining moment. Bjork shimmies onto the stage and performs a fun version of Human Behavior—her original breakthrough hit. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds also deliver a chilling take on the classic Red Right Hand. Thankfully, Temple does show a good portion of David Bowie's Heroes, which provides a strong impact late in the film. A negative scene comes from Joe Strummer, who makes himself look stupid by ranting about the increased security and singing awfully. I can't argue with his general message, but found the complaints awkward and a bit hypocritical when you consider the source. Eavis does claim that Strummer apologized to him afterwards, which makes the vitriol seem even more artificial.

Glastonbury's trailer promises an energetic look at numerous classic performances and the people who attended them. Instead, we spend much of the 138 minutes watching bad performance artists, some people acting really dumb, and others saying things that make little sense. Their actions are interesting for about an hour, but get tired as nearly identical scenes appear and last for extended periods of time. Temple has crafted an impressive series of images that showcases his considerable artistic talent. But the meandering approach limits its effectiveness and leads to growing frustration. At certain points, you could leave for 10 minutes and miss very little. There are plenty of transcendant live performances and interesting stories in Glastonbury's history to fill a two-hour film. This picture uses some of them, but it also overloads the junk, which leads to just an average experience.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Glastonbury includes a wide array of footage, so the quality level of the 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer varies considerably. The recent concert footage is impressive and effectively grasps the large scope of the featival's later years. The home-video footage in the crowd often contains significant grain, but this fact is no surprise considering the limited technology of the original material.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: In similiar fashion to the image transfer, the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio has a dramatic range of quality depending on the source. The later footage immerses you effectively within the concert experience and delivers some powerful music. The film's disjointed nature does make the shifts to poorer sound fairly awkward, but that cannot be helped due to Julien Temple's filmmaking style.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico, Awesome ... I Shot That, F*ck, The Aristocrats
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Julien Temple and Jarvis Cocker
Packaging: generic plastic two-disc keepc
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:10m:09s

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus musical performances
  2. Celebrity and crowd interview footage
Extras Review: This two-disc release includes a complete disc of extra footage that offers even more music and background. There's also a dull commentary from Director Julien Temple and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, who seemed to be a good choice to discuss the festival. Sadly, this track includes many quiet spots and offers little worthy details. Temple doesn't appear to understand how a commentary should work and just injects a few throwaway comments here and there. It is interesting to hear Cocker discuss some of his Glastonbury experiences, but it's not enough to save this unfortunate feature.

The bonus disc offers 10 uncut performances from an odd collection of artists of varying quality. The Foo Fighters open the section with a high-powered rendition of This Is The Call—dedicated to Rocket From the Crypt. Other impressive performances include The White Stripes' Hotel Yorba, Radiohead's Idioteque (accompanied by fireworks), and a lengthy version of Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Surprisingly, the most exciting song comes from Paul McCartney, who delivers a rousing Live and Let Die for the energetic crowd. The less-exciting offerings here include the Fun Lovin' Criminals awful Scooby Snacks and Goldfrapp's Strict Machine,which offers a cool show but so-so vocals. The entire section is available in the "Play All" format or individually and lasts about 42 minutes. It includes solid performances but falls short of the possibilities available even from just the most recent years of the festival.

The remaining supplements include bonus interviews, the theatrical trailer, and two brief films showing the "spiritual" ceremonies of some visitors. The conversations last about 45 minutes and are divided into celebrities and festival goers. Noel Gallagher offers directly, sensible comments about the differences between Glastonbury and other festivals. It's great to see James Brown, who looks pretty old but also seems very happy to be performing. Another highlight comes from Moby, who describes observing some crazy moments with mud in the past. The disc also contains interviews with Michael Eavis, DJ John Peel, and the Dandy Warhols. The two short features—Freeing the Spirit: Glastonbury 1999 and Glastonbury Ceremony—last about 10 minutes total and are only mildly interesting.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Music enthusiasts will probably be disappointed with Glastonbury, which promises exciting performances but delivers only rarely. The bonus disc helps out slightly, but it still falls short of expectations. If you're looking to observe what it's like to attend Glastonbury and deal with crowds and eccentric people, this documentary fulfills that promise. However, its middling live footage and lengthy running time diminish my recommendation.


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