The UK's most beloved music jamboree gets a cluttered but enjoyable cinematic paean.
As the opening logo of Glastonbury the Movie (In Flashback) explodes on to the screen like some sort of cartoon fireball, we could be forgiven for thinking this is an overblown film version of the wall-to-wall TV coverage the music festival receives every year.
However, with the exception the occasional editorial annoyances, Robin Mahoney’s documentary offers Glastonbury up as an essentially ethereal experience, one that is best left to wash over you.
Originally filmed in 1993, the last year before TV cameras invaded, Mahoney has gone back to the drawing board with his previous release and re-edited his footage from scratch to create a new film. Rather than being an interview-driven doc (although there are a few), the film instead attempts to evoke the particular, other-worldly atmosphere that Glastonbury seems to whisk up.
To this end, the film achieves its aims remarkably well. Observing the various oddballs and eccentrics that mill around the fields makes for a fascinating spectacle: men playing guitars upside down; giant bubbles; crowdsurfing and young festival-goers reveling from an elevated JCB scoop.
Curiously, the film works best when it isn’t focusing on the major bands occupying the large stages, but on the micro-culture that develops within the confines of the festival itself. As folk hurtle around in multi-coloured vehicles and men on giant stilts stalk the landscape, dry and dusty from the summer heat, it resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland where everyone is having a great time.
While also capturing the depth and range of the festival, and what can be a quite magical experience, the humour of the festival goers is also displayed through the careful revisiting of certain ‘characters’ throughout.
Unfortunately, the film’s overzealous editing detracts from this thematic through-line. At a number of junctures, mainly when covering main stage performances, the film makes very heavy use of split-screen images (perhaps a nod to 1970's Woodstock).
If the intention is to portray the sheer variety of characters and display the festival in some sort of parallel-edited Rashomon mash-up, it doesn’t really work. At one stage, the split screen appears to show identical images, and at another, the right image also has cross-fading images. This is simply too much to pile on screen and still appreciate, which, given some of the images on offer, is a shame.
In its more aesthetic flights of fancy, Glastonbury the Movie (In Flashback) is visual and aural delight. As a window on pre-Britpop Glastonbury, it makes for fascinating and often captivating viewing. Though it too often it wrenches you away from the action just as it's getting interesting. Much like Glastonbury itself these days, the film is a frustrating melange of the poetic and the prosaic.
Promises a new window on early '90s Glastonbury.
Captivating images make this more than just a simple music doc, but frustrating editing choices hamper the action.
Some fantastic music, imagery and festival characters to take away with you.