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Glastonbury the Movie in Flashback


Stars: Featuring: The Filberts, Co-Creators, Lemonheads, Omar, Spiritualized, Chuck Prophet, the Verve, McKoy, Porno for Pyros, Ozric Tentacles, Riksaraj, Airto Moreira, Back to the Planet. Dexter Fletcher, Charlie Creed-Miles

Director: Robert Mahoney

In 1995, Mike Leigh said of this visually vivid documentary look at the 1993 Glastonbury music festival “it’s a masterpiece”. High praise indeed, coming from one of Britain’s finest filmmakers.

Now it emerges again, from the chrysalis of the first film, with director Robert Mahoney (also doubling as producer and editor) adding “new performances, funny little moments unseen material found among the rushes”.

The Cinemascope cinematography is ravishing with Michael Sarne among the credited cameramen. The editing – old and new – brings the brawling, sprawling affair vividly to life, opening with a scene of rural calm featuring cows looking languidly at the camera and segueing into sequences as the fields fill with cars, people, tents and louche, lively and occasionally naked people living the good life and enjoying the musical acts. Music knits the visuals together but given the likelihood that today only the most devout music fanatics will remember Omar, Lemonheads, Porno for Pyros and Stereo MCs among others, the film works best as a fascinating moment in musical/social history frozen in celluloid.

Luckily the original directors, Mahoney, Matthew Salkeld and William Beaton, were blessed with something currently missing from the British summer, beautiful weather, beautifully photographed, (It’s hard not to feel really sorry for the festival attendees currently wallowing in mud and rain on the Isle of Wight).

Fine use of the split screen adds impact, jugglers, stilt walkers, clowns, drunken dancers and assorted amiable weirdos add colour, and the pacing is fast. When someone comments as they clear the traces of the festival from the fields, there is “such a nice vibe”. (Best of all, perhaps, is that in 1993, the currently far too omnipresent and ubiquitous Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard are nowhere to be seen).

Alan Frank

UK 1995. UK Distributor: November Films. Colour.
91 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 23 Jun 2012