NEW YORK TIMES - 'Monterey Pop' Views the Rock Scene By RENATA ADLER
"MONTEREY POP," which was shown last night at LincolnCenter and which will open early in January at the Kips Bay Theater, is a contemporary music film—in the relatively fresh tradition of "Festival" and "Don't Look Back." The movie, filmed by Richard Leacock and D. A. Pennebaker, with the collaboration of Albert Maysles and other independent filmmakers, is an upbeat, color documentary of the 1967 pop-music festival in Monterey, Calif. It stars the Mamas and the Papas, the Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, the Who and other singing groups. From the moment Scott Mackenzie's "If you're going to San Francisco" comes onto the track and screen, it is clear that this is one good way to do a musical.
There is all that shiny hair, orangeade, beautiful hands, shades, watermelon, shoeless feet in tights, flowers, papers, dogs, the wrinkled bottom of Ravi Shankar's tapping foot, psychedelic blobs behind the podium, smoke effects behind the infernal Who, mouths approaching microphones, eyes in all those various, distinct, serious young faces, which—10 years ago, before the seriousness of Vietnam began—we didn't seem to have. The photography is pretty well coordinated with the sound, sometimes blinded by strobe lights, so that the screen goes absolutely white, sometimes shifting down lines of audience in a kind of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" focus of attention on characters other than the main.
There are the lyrical songs, "California Dreamin'" and Simon and Garfunkel's "Feeling Groovy." Janis Joplin straining her voice and being to sing black. Then there is a kind of spot, purely visual interview — a beard and a cop laughing, wordlessly teasing each other; a girl from Champaign, Ill., feeling lucky to be allowed to wipe the folding chairs between performances, a Hell's Angel arriving at the Shankar concert that is the long, wound up climax of the film. There are rock violinists and young people dressed like pageant potentates.
"We all love each other, right?" Otis Redding shouts, half ironic, half intimidating. "Right," the audience replies. Jimmie Hendrix goes through his thing of somersaulting, then being irreverently, frantically obscene with his guitar, finally destroying it—presaging in a fairly violent way, the quality of the kisses of Tiny Tim.
But the nicest thing about the movie is not its musical or nostalgic qualities, but the way it captures the pop musical willingness to hurl yourself into things, without all the What If (What if I can't? What if I make a fool of myself?) joy action-stopping self-consciousness of an earlier generation, a willingness that can somehow co-exist with the idea of cool. Also, musically and photographically, the harmonies, the resolutions of chaos after everything looks as though it is going to fall apart.
"Once you leave here you may not re-enter," a guard at the festival says to some members of the audience at the gate. It is possible that the way to a new kind of musical—using some of the talent and energy of what is still the most lively contemporary medium—may begin with just this kind of musical performance documentary.
MONTEREY POP, a documentary of the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival directed by D. A. Pennebaker; photographed by James Desmond, Barry Feinstein, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysies, Roger Murphy, Nick Proferes and Mr. Pennebaker
Running time: 72 minutes.