11 April, 2006

4 reel

Another week, another film premiere for me to stumble blindly into on my way home from work.

This time I found myself fighting through the throng gathered for the opening of this new Julien Temple-directed documentary about the Glastonbury Festival. I say throng, but to be honest it was a somewhat modest gathering. It would have seemed like a throng to somebody knee-high to a grasshopper's knee. Someone from Sky News was there, broadcasting live from under a huge umbrella and gesturing to passers-by as if we were somehow complicit with what was going on. The fact it was pissing it down certainly didn't help the occasion, despite the obvious mileage to be got from drawing comparisons with some of Glastonbury's legendary washouts.

Speaking of which, there were some people who looked suspiciously like they belonged to indie bands hanging about Leicester Square. I read later these included The Magic Numbers, who I certainly wouldn't have been able to recognise even close up, and none other than Michael Eavis himself, uber-lord of the festival from day one.

But all in all it was a distinctly low-key affair and nowhere near as illustrious as the premieres I've joylessly clawed my way through in previous weeks. I'm not entirely sure of the merits of the film either. Its the kind of proposition that's only bound to leave audiences disappointed, on the one hand because they've been to Glastonbury themselves and what they've seen on screen isn't anywhere close to capturing what it was like to be there; and on the other hand because they've never been to Glastonbury and are envious of those who have.

I've never been to Glastonbury but I know several who have, and I would never presume to fully understand or appreciate what it was like for them while they were there. All I know is that first hand testimony has always conflicted with received wisdom, and that - for instance - for every critic who retrospectively rubbished Oasis in 1995, somebody else will sincerely testify to it being one of the greatest performances they've ever seen.

Anyhow, the best coverage of Glastonbury that I've ever seen hails from the first year it was televised, 1993, back when only Channel 4 could be arsed to send cameras. I've still got it on tape, and it's always a joy to watch, more so as the years go by and its uncompromising sights and sounds become more rose-tinted and reflective. Plus it had Mark Radcliffe presenting, with no sign of bloody Jo Whiley. Which can only ever be a good thing.


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