Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival
Few films are as adept at capturing the inherent class conflicts within the supposedly classless world of rock and roll than this concert film based on the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival, one of the biggest and least successful of all the huge late-'60s festivals. The movie focuses on the trio of naive young promoters who rented an entire island south of Great Britain and brought to it some of the biggest acts in music, including Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, The Who, The Doors and a young Leonard Cohen. Bad karma dominates the proceedings from the start, as only a small percentage of the 600,000 fans have purchased tickets, and the non-paying crowd soon forms an angry mob demanding to be let into the concert for free. The promoters come off as surprisingly sympathetic as they attempt to pacify the hostile crowd while still trying to cover the enormous expenses of the concert and cater to the massive egos of the musicians. Imminent violence seems to loom heavy in the air, and as a result, most of the performers give tense, mercenary performances, almost as if preparing to flee the stage in case riots break out. Hendrix and The Doors are particularly lethargic, which is a shame considering both Hendrix and Jim Morrison would both be dead in a matter of months. As the festival goes on, the atmosphere grows even more tense, with one concertgoer describing the festival as a "psychedelic concentration camp" complete with fences, armed guards and police dogs. Ultimately, no violence breaks out, but the promoters end up losing a fortune, and the concert stands as a sad symbol of the decline of '60s idealism in the face of cutthroat capitalism. A brilliantly clear-eyed and cynical look at the hypocrisy of the hippie movement, Message To Love is a fascinating time capsule.