In Michael Wadleigh’s celebrated 1970 documentary “Woodstock”, the myth of the purity of Sixties radicalism takes a sharp stick in the eye when the cumulative evidence reveals that rather than the three day music festival energizing the youth culture with an enlightened revolutionary fervor centered on opposition to the Vietnam War, the bulk of the attendees’ attention seemed reprioritized to the more immediately rewarding search for appropriately modest places to evacuate their bladders. Meanwhile, Country Joe McDonald scolds the largely somnolent audience to lift themselves from their torpor and participate in an antiwar activity as undemanding a demonstration of political solidarity as possible- a sing-along -with the noncommittal response seeming to be a result of cognitive benumbing through chemistry or simply distracted adolescence; neither of which is particularly characteristic of action born of deep rooted radical activism His is a rather dispirited call to revolutionary defiance that is met with glazed eyes and mud caked somnambulism.
A different form of activist dishonesty is on display in Francine Parker’s “F.T.A.”, a film documenting a satiric vaudeville troupe on what was called the Free The Army tour, a type of anti-USO show; not designed to provide entertainment to the troops as much as the indoctrination of additional disharmony among the ranks of the already situationally disgruntled. Armed with equal parts sophomoric glibness and celebrity vanity, the skits comprising the revue aim low and still miss the mark, unassisted by the unrelenting (and unmerited) smugness projected by Donald Sutherland and the faux-fawning Kewpie Doll persona affected by Jane Fonda as a substitution for ability in sketch comedy, though in her defense there is little the most able of comic talents could have done with the gratingly unfunny material (though to weaken her alibi, both she and Sutherland are accused, along with seven other abettors, of the writing). It plays like a suggestion for a show passed around the living room during a cocktail party with each each contribution seeming more hilarious as the passed bottle empties.
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