Daily Projections, 12-12-2018: Monterey Pop (1968)

Title: Monterey Pop
Director: D.A. Pennebaker
Country of Origin: USA
Year: USA
Screening format: TV (TCM)
Setting: Home
First viewing? Yes

It’s hard to believe I’ve gotten this far without in life without having ever seen Monterey Pop all the way through. Sure, I’ve seen Hendrix and his flaming guitar, every minute of Otis Redding, and parts of Shankar, but never the whole thing. And the experience of seeing it all at once makes a few things more evident that are harder to notice in standalone clips. For one thing, it seems to me that the look of Monterey Pop owes a lot to Bert Stern’s Jazz On a Summer’s Day (1959): the camera work, the editing, the “plot” – it’s all right out of the 1958 Newport Jazz festival (though Aram Avakian’s editing in Jazz is more impressive, I think). Of course, Jazz On A Summer’s Day is the yardstick by which I measure all concert films, so maybe a bit of confirmation bias here. Monterey Pop certainly captures a moment in history, which I suppose should be the goal of a good concert film. And what a moment it was. There’s something truly special about watching “Mama” Cass Elliot, sitting in the audience, being blown away by the talent of a still young Janis Joplin. And where else can you watch the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz rocking out to Ravi Shankar?

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