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Wight Didn't Make Right

Joni Mitchell
Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Joni Mitchell was a genius--but not at the Isle of Wight in 1970.

Documentary looks at famously
messed-up festival

By Richard von Busack

THE BITTERLY ironic title, Message to Love, comes from a Jimi Hendrix song performed during the course of the 1970 Isle of Wight concert. Hendrix, only 12 days from his OD, is in sensational form. The same can't be said for the youth movement he exemplified. The five-day live concert (documented with footage assembled last year) was held in a bare sheep pasture on an island a few miles from the south coast of England. Here was a British Altamont, a rancorous mess that ended in a tangle of police dogs, security guards, pissed-off fans and furious concert promoters bellowing at the audience from the stage.

Still, the music is often marvelous. Miles Davis is here, and the Who is as blistering as it was in Live at Leeds. Unfortunately, not all of the acts are up to their standard. Joni Mitchell is a genius, but she's a genius in the wrong place at the wrong time--and she's pathetically miffed when the crowd catcalls her. The Doors just make you hang your head in shame. For further and lower comedy, a troop of fools calling itself the Moody Blues mocks the pretensions of prog rock with such appalling earnestness that you'll regret having ever sniffled over "Tuesday Afternoon." A dose of this should quench any '60s nostalgia that might be hamstringing you today. Murray Lerner's documentary deplores the naiveté of its time, while sympathizing with the gate crashers--if you call up a revolution, you have to expect that some people will be reluctant to pay money to attend it.

Message to Love (Unrated; 128 min.), a documentary by Murray Lerner.

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From the March 13-19, 1997 issue of Metro

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