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Glastonbury Fayre 
Written by: on May 11th, 2009

Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1972
Director: Nicolas Roeg (and Peter Neal)
Cast: Traffic, Arthur Brown, Melanie, The Fairport Convention, Terry Reid

DVD released: June 8th, 2009
Approximate running time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £17.99

Filmed during the summer 1971, this documentation of the first official Glastonbury gathering captures the thousands of flower children who attended the festival where musical acts such as Traffic, Arthur Brown, Melanie, The Fairport Convention, Family, Linda Lewis and Terry Reid performed on the maiden appearance of the now-famous pyramid stage. As well as the events unfolding onstage, the film crew also capture in a quietly observational manner the various audience members as they drop acid, dance to the music and roll around naked in the mud. While this is the beginning of Glastonbury, it also marks the end of an era as the dawn of the seventies looms.

Opening to dismal box office in 1972 after considerable disinterest from potential financiers, GLASTONBURY FAYRE may lack the overwhelming cultural significance of the WOODSTOCK film, but is still a fascinating documentation of the first gathering of this long-running festival. While the film has often been listed as a curious footnote in Nicolas Roeg’s career due to his duel credit as one of the cinematographers as well as ‘Executive In Charge of Filming’, the release of Odeon Entertainment’s DVD clarifies Roeg’s involvement: according to his own audio commentary and accompanying ‘making of’ featurette, the filmmaker was the actual director during the shoot, and after completing a rough cut he left the project to work on DON’T LOOK NOW. Goodtimes Enterprises (who, incidentally, were also associated with the production of PERFORMANCE) came on board to fund the post-production work, and with them brought Peter Neal in to oversee the final edit. Apparently, the structure of Roeg’s cut was kept fundamentally the same, but several changes were made and Neal (who was responsible for such music-related projects as YESSONGS and AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’) was eventually given the credit as ‘Completion Director’. It is worth noting that this DVD version has been amended to include for the first time a newly created ‘Director Nicolas Roeg’ title in the end credits (thanks to Brad Stevens for confirming this information).

From a commercial point of view – let alone from a moral stance – the downplaying of Roeg’s involvement is a peculiar move, although one the filmmaker does not seem bitter about. With this clarification, GLASTONBURY FAYRE becomes not just a valuable time capsule of the early seventies, but also a noteworthy addition to the director’s filmography since many themes in the film reoccur throughout his work. While superficially there are elements of sex, drugs, and performers from the music industry, the illustration of a society that is alien to the status quo is equally important. Also, Roeg notes on the commentary that he remembers saying during shooting to one of the cinematographers “‘don’t let’s set anything up…don’t ask anybody to do anything, (just) shoot it’. Since then, when shooting anything with a touch of reality…I use that thought myself”, which is an enlightening annotation to the filmmaker’s ongoing cinematic style. Aided by an excellent group of cinematographers – including Tony Richmond, whom Roeg has worked with several times throughout the decade – it is this unobtrusive observational style that makes the film intriguing, even for those unfamiliar or disinterested in the musical styling on display. One memorable moment, when two smartly dressed men in suits are seen wondering through the crowd, recalls the culture clash meeting of Chas and Turner in PERFORMANCE.

The DVD:

Odeon Entertainment’s DVD of GLASTONBURY FAYRE is a commendable and excellently compiled release of this little-seen documentary. Framed at the original aspect ratio of 1:33:1, it has been presented here in a new High Definition transfer. Although there is considerable grain and a few instances of dirt and debris, this is due to the original 16mm film elements and overall the picture probably looks the best it has ever been.

The sound is presented in its original mono dimensions and has been scrubbed up to the best possible quality. It is free of hiss and, like the image restoration, is more then acceptable.

As stated before, the biggest accessory to accompany GLASTONBURY FAYRE are the extras produced specifically for the disc. The commentary by Nicolas Roeg is, in the filmmaker’s typical rambling charm, punctuated with some revealing comments and observations about the actions as they unfold on-screen, as well as the overall production. Even more illuminating is the 35-minute ‘making of’ featurette in which Roeg, producers Michael Flint and Sandy Lieberman, and musicians such as Melanie and Linda Lewis, offer their insights and recollections of the festival. One of the most intriguing being that David Bowie’s concert footage was not excused for copyright reasons as has long been believed, but rather that it was never captured since the performance occurred at 4:00am while the camera crew were asleep! As all of this material sheds some light on Roeg’s involvement in the project, both of these extras are essential to followers of the filmmaker’s work. Also included on the disc is a trailer for MELANIE – LIVE AT MELTDOWN FESTIVAL, an event captured during 2007’s event of which Jarvis Cocker was the curator.

Long out of circulation, GLASTONBURY FAYRE arrives on DVD in an excellent transfer and with revealing bonus material. Recommended.

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