Monterey Pop - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Monterey Pop Reviews

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August 18, 2015
An influential and important concert documentary that uses some very interesting cinema verite editing techniques. The film includes tons of great performances by some great performers, these performers include artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel , Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding, and more. This film is directed by the great documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, who also directed the Bob Dylan doc "Don't Look Back."
½ December 27, 2014
One of the great concert films. Up there with The Band's The Last Waltz, Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same (ignoring the surreal non-concert nonsense) and Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense. And yes, I do rate it higher than Woodstock.

The list of artists is amazing: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, The Animals, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar and Booker T and the MGs, plus Hugh Masekela, Canned Heat and Country Joe and the Fish.

Great performances, with, I believe, Janis Joplin giving the stand-out one. Of course, this was the concert where Jimi Hendrix and The Who tossed a coin to see who of the two of them would go on first. Neither wanted to be last, as the other one would be a tough act to follow. The Who won the toss, went on first and, after their set, smashed up their guitars and drums. Hendrix managed to upstage them by setting his guitar on fire...

An incredibly historic concert, for many reasons.
½ July 26, 2014
This film documents the 1967 Monterey Pop Music Festival with line-up of great bands and performers including the Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc. And the music is really mostly great and the film is well-made with some interesting visuals (which could be enhanced by certain substances, if you know what I mean) Even though I know that this predates Woodstock and "Woodstock", the documentary, I can't help but feel that this is "Woodstock"-lite. Although it does contain footage of Peter Towsnhend and Jimi Hendix destroying their guitars on stage. That's something!
Super Reviewer
September 23, 2013
Ravi Shankar's sitar playing and Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar were the highlight of this concert.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2013
Well, it's good to see that D. A. Pennebaker can make a fly-on-the-wall music documentary that isn't kind of dull, as surely as it's good to see that there was a time when something featuring a title that said "pop", but not "traditional", didn't tell you that, chances are, the music is going to stink. Oh yeah, because I know when I think of lighthearted pop tunes, I think of Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, The Who, Country Joe & Fish, Simon & Garfunkel, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Animals, Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding and, of course, the cheesiest of them all, Jimi Hendrix. I can see some granny of the '60s sitting around with a Frank Sinatra record in the trash and relaxing to the lovely sounds of Hendrix making the most insane of noises on an electric guitar and hollering out a cover of "Wild Thing", though that might just be because all I have to do in order to see that is find any given current granny, seeing as how the rock lovers of the '60s are probably grannies by now. Seriously though, I reckon the definition of pop music was a bit broader back in the '60s, so that means that y'all should calm down, because even though there were plenty of good pop songs in '60s, I for one am not objecting to rocking out for a solid... hour-and-a-quarter. Come on, Pennebaker, you made me sit through Bob Dylan just hanging out and doing nothing for almost 100 minutes (By the ways, I like "Dont Look Back", but come on, man), and now you're only giving me 79 minutes of the three days of one of the biggest events of modern music, while Michael Wadleigh is off making "Woodstock"... at least three hours long. Okay, maybe Wadleigh overdid it a bit, but hey, the point is that "Woodstock" was three hours or so very well spent, which isn't to say that this film isn't 80 minutes very well spent, because short or not and more poppy or not, this film is a good one. Still, while this film gives you a good show, and proves to be a good show by its own right, a length that is outrageous - though not in the same way the length of "Woodstock" was outrageous - isn't quite this final product's only problem.

The first sentence of the opener above features me proclaiming that this film is much more entertaining than such other fly-on-the-wall music documentaries by D. A. Pennebaker as "Dont Look Back", and sure enough, seeing as how this film doesn't have a whole lot of time to do much of anything outside of showcase music, there's plenty of liveliness within the final product, yet there are occasions in which things quiet down a bit, and slow momentum down in the process with a bit of meandering blandness that disengages, while making the dragged out notes in structuring all the easier to see. With all of my talk about how overly short the film is, it still has its share of moments in which it wastes what limited time it has a aimless filler, something that would have to drive this film, seeing as how we're talking about an intentionally narrative-less meditation upon an event, but sometimes outstays its welcome and leaves things to feel repetitious. I'm not asking for too much dynamicity here, because there's no fully pulling that off when all you're doing is showing people hanging out and listening to music for three days, yet where films like "Woodstock" took enough to spread things out and dilute monotony about as much as it could, this film crams so much together that it ends up scooping aimless filler into the pile as firm reminders of this film's not really having enough time to do much. Of course, it's not like there's any forgetting that this film is too short for its own good, because at just a minute shy of a pathetically mere hour-and-twenty minutes, this film condenses a hugely important three-day highlight in modern rock history into an almost offensively brief runtime that may give you a decent bit of insight into the Monterey Pop Festival, as well as some excess fat around the edges, but not as much as it probably should. The film would be too short to be memorable if it wasn't so good in a lot of ways, but at the end of the day, this film isn't as immersive as it could have been, and that leaves you to draw in on the natural shortcomings, of which there are many, because as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, this film has no real focal structure, wandering along with no narrative and simply focusing on life being lived by unknown Joes before the objective eye of the viewer who was never going to be able to invest too much into this film. Like I said, there's plenty that is good here, so much so that the final product rewards, yet if the film was tighter in some places and more fleshed out in other places, it perhaps could have succeeded, like something like "Woodstock", as a strongly immersive and in-depth study on an important event in music and the past time of gathering for music, rather than fall short of its potential. The film could have been more, and yet, it's still offers quite a bit, even if it's for much too limited of a time, overcoming shortcomings enough to reward as a thoroughly entertaining and, in some ways, rather well-edited documentary.

"Woodstock" owes much of its being so strong to Michael Wadleigh's, Martin Scorsese's, Stan Warnow's Yeu-Bun Yee's, Jere Huggins' and Thelma Schoonmaker's outstandingly stylish editing, whose lively snap and taste in screen splitting that gave you a feel for the immensity of the environment proved to be deeply immersive, thus leaving this film unable to top "Woodstock" even when it comes to editing, which isn't to say that Nina Schulman's efforts as this film's editor aren't colorful enough to stylishly pump up liveliness and sustain the entertainment value that may lapse a bit when editing leaves too much fat around the edges, but wouldn't be as firmly sustained as it is without the subtly clever editing. Really, there's not much that's technically remarkable about this film, but the final product does have its stylish moments to help in breathing life into entertainment value that, before being complimented, must first be established by what is done right in the fly-on-the-wall "story"telling. There's no real structure to this documentary, just meditations upon the happenings that defined this major and apparently thrilling event, and while such a fly-on-the-wall type of documentary focus can never work so well that you end up with an excellent final product, it can either work as adequately immersive, or fall pretty flat, so this film takes big risks, and more often than not, it overcomes them, providing plenty of filler footage that may occasionally get to be excessive, but is generally effective in giving you a feel for the environment of the Monterey Pop Festival that immerses you into the event. The film could be a bit more aware of its surroundings, even though such meditations tend to slow things down about as much as they help in immersing you, but you get enough sights of the people and places that could be seen at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California, on these infamous three days to feel as though you had something of a place in the environment, and yet, when it's all said and done, this event was about the music, and this film makes sure that you don't forget that. Sure, the recordings of the musical performances that stand at the center of this documentary's focus have dated a bit, and for that matter, there are some questionable spots within the performances themselves, but really, the music at this event would have to be good if the festival was going to be a major note in live music history, and as sure as sunshine, through all of the technical shortcomings and occasional hiccups, this film offers plenty of fine tunes - whether they be of a thoroughly entertaining nature (Canned Heat and Otis Redding), groovy nature (The Mamas & the Papas, Jefferson Starship, Country Joe & Fish and Ravi Shankar), or of a thrillingly rocking nature (The Animals, The Who and, last, but not least, Jimi Hendrix) - that embody the diversity, style, soul and considerable inspiration that made the mid-to-late '60s such an instrumental era in the shaping of modern music. Needless to say, this film could have incorporated a whole lot more of the entertaining music that helped in defining this generation, but what musical material you get in this film does a lot to drive the liveliness that director D. A. Pennebaker does a lot to make sure never slips too far. As I said, Pennebaker isn't consistently successful in battling back bland spells, and would have made the final product much greater if he had spent more time fleshing out immersion value, yet when it's all said and done, while the final product leaves much to be desired, it offers enough to reward as an entertaining documentary.

When all of the rocking is over and done, you're left with a rock film that goes too shaken by bland occasions, bloated moments and way too much briefness - which leaves you to meditate upon the natural shortcomings that you should have come to expect from structureless fly-on-the-wall documentaries - to be as rewarding as it could have been, but through decent areas in editing, a degree of immersive intrigue within the meditations upon non-music happenings, and many a strong musical performance that adds, "Monterey Pop" boasts enough memorable entertainment value to prove to be adequately satisfying as an in-depth showcase of the happenings that occurred at a major event in the history of live music.

3/5 - Good
January 27, 2008
Woodstock may have been a cultural touchstone, but musically, it's often disastrous. If you want to see the best music festival of all-time, THIS is the one, captured beautifully on what's arguably the best, most utopian film made on the '60s counterculture.
August 7, 2012
One of the greatest music festivals of the rock era. Historic performances by Janis Joplin, Otis Redding. The Who and Jimi Hendrix's legendary sets which culminated with The Who obliterating their instruments and Jimi's sacrificial burning and smashing of his guitar after an utterly explosive performance which left the audience stunned and confounded. The film concludes with Ravi Shankar's thrilling and mesmerizing raga to an enraptured and wholly elated crowd. Marvelous! I would recommend the extended version The Complete Monterey Pop as it contains seperate discs of Jimi Hendrix's and Otis Redding's performance films and a disc of outtakes.
July 22, 2012
One of the greatest concert films of all time.
April 10, 2012
what monterey does to his wife's mouth when he catches her boning the milkman
July 29, 2011
A great film that captures the essence of the festival. Great performances from Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Ravi Shankar.
July 22, 2011
just as Great as Woodstock
May 29, 2011
Sick concert film with awesome performances especially by The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankhar.
½ January 22, 2011
Awesome snapshot. Really well filmed. Fantastic sound and amazing performances. It was nice watching this after Gimme Shelter, which is equally as good, but totally different.
July 27, 2010
It doesn't have quite the power Woodstock, but Monterey Pop is still a time capsule, featuring some of the greatest musicians.
April 9, 2010
I liked a good deal of the performances, especially The Who and Janis Joplin, but too many groups (Hugh Masekela, Country Joe & The Fish) were just too weird for me to enjoy.
March 30, 2010
Love this movie, but there are two major flaws: 1) it's too short at barely 1 hour 40 minutes and 2) the Ravi Shankar sitar bit seems to last at least 20 minutes, taking up the lion's share of the movies. Plenty more acts could have been featured who were there. Watch carefully for Brian Jones and Mickey Dolenz.
December 24, 2009
November 18, 2009
Great flashback music history. very Interesting.
May 9, 2008






Super Reviewer
August 23, 2009
This film documents the titular music festival that was said to be a precursor to Woodstock. Such claims of inspiration seem a bit dubious as this was clearly a much more modest endeavor than that legendary 1969 concert. This festival was not done on a giant stage in front of millions of mud covered hippies. Rather, this seemed to have occurred in a variety of indoor venues over a couple of days. Similarly, the documentary of this isn?t nearly as wide in scope as the Woodstock documentary. There is not much documentation of the crowds or the scene, this is strictly interested in filming musical performances, what?s more, each act only gets one song for the most part. So basically we get a handful of high energy performances by some great musicians, but as a film it?s not all that special.
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