F.: James Desmond, Barry Feinstein, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, Roger Murphy, D.A. Pennebaker, Nicholas Proferes. M.: Nina Schulman. Int.: Scott McKenzie, The Mamas & the Papas, Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, The Animals. Prod.: Lou Adler, John Phillips. DCP 4K. D.: 79’. Col.
This was probably the first systematically and sympathetically filmed rock event with an understanding of the music and its cultural significance, therefore, arguably, the beginning of rockumentary. Featuring bands like The Mamas and the Papas, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and Holding Company, The Animals, and The Who, Monterey was a three-day celebration (June 16-18, 1967) of the music of the ‘summer of love’, later to be imitated repeatedly (Woodstock, Altamont), thanks to Pennebaker’s film which convinced the promotors that rock and cinema can have a happy marriage, artistically and commercially.
Shot by Pennebaker himself who was on the stage throughout the festival, two cameras (Nicholas Proferes and Jim Desmond) were stationed on platforms on the front end of the stage and two (Richard Leacock and Roger Murphy) on the overlooking rooftops while Barry Feinstein filmed the audience and Albert Maysles covered the view from the central area of the arena. Not surprisingly, the result has striking similarities to a classic filmed concert from a decade earlier, Jazz on A Summer’s Day (shown at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2015), in the way in which the camera spends an equal amount of time on both the performer and the spectator, but also in the film’s celebration of fashion and style of a generation.
Even though Hendrix literally setting his guitar on fire and then smashing it and Joplin giving an electrifying performance in a classy, non-hippy dress are often told to be the highlights of both the festival and the film, now it is probably the climactic performance of Shankar and Alla Rakha which stands out, a sequence lasting for 17 minutes, during first half of which no performers are shown and the camera scrutinised those who, in a state of chemical or emotional high, are mesmerised by the magic of Indian masters.
Originally shot in 16mm, in the 1970s the film was already a documentation of a bygone era as some of its leading stars – Janis, Hendrix, Brian Jones, and Otis– were dead, all at about age 27. This led to further use of the original concert material by Pennebaker and the realisation of the ‘complete performance’ films of Hendrix and Redding.
Restored in 4K by Criterion Collection in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata e Metropolis Post laboratories, from the original 16mm A/B reversal. Restoration supervised and approved by the director D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus and Frazer Pennebaker. The 5.1 soundtrack was remastered by Eddie Kramer from the original analog 8 track master tapes