New Ang Lee film conjures up spirit of Woodstock

Sat May 16, 2009 9:15am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Oscar-winning director Ang Lee conjures the optimism of late 1960s America in a touching film based on the true story of Elliot Tiber, who was instrumental in organizing the legendary Woodstock concert.

In "Taking Woodstock," news footage and the presence in the cast of troubled Vietnam war veteran Billy, played by Emile Hirsch, are reminders of the violent backdrop to the event.

But they barely intrude upon what is a feel-good movie in which Lee aimed to capture what he called "the last moment of innocence," and a contrast to his most recent films "Brokeback Mountain" and "Lust, Caution," both tragedies.

"I was yearning to do a comedy/drama again without cynicism," Lee told reporters on Saturday at the Cannes film festival, where Taking Woodstock is in the main competition.

"For me '69 ... is a glorified idea, a romantic image of the late 60s, the last piece of innocence we had, at least in my mind," the 54-year-old Taiwanese director added.

"To me it's the innocence of a young generation departing from the old establishment and trying to find a more refreshing way, more fair way to live with everybody else.

"You have to give those half a million kids the credit of actually having three days of peace and music, nothing violent happened. I don't know if it could happen today."

An estimated 500,000 fans turned up in August, 1969, to hear the likes of Janis Joplin, The Who and Jimi Hendrix perform on a dairy farm belonging to Tiber's neighbor Max Yasgur.   Continued...

<p>Director Ang Lee (R) poses with producer Celia Costas (2nd R) and cast members James Schamus, Emile Hirsch, Demetri Martin and Imelda Staunton (L-R) during a photocall for the film "Taking Woodstock" at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival May 16, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>