Film Scouts Reviews

"Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival"

by Leslie Rigoulot

Music from
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September 3, 1996

Murray Lerner, director of "Message to Love", introduced it saying that it was not a retrospective of the Isle of Wight rock festival and certainly not chronological. But it capturesthe essence well. In it, the last stage performances by Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison with the Doors punctuate the segments that Lerner has put together.

The festival was thought up by two middle-class lads who decide to put on a show to rival Woodstock. Well, the self-righteousness of the hippie era shows as the concert-goers refuse to ante up admission and the artists refuse to perform without being paid. For the music alone, this time-capsule is well worth its 126 minutes. Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Baez perform while the chaos continues. Kris Kristofferson walks off the stage during "Me and Bobby McGee" when the pounding noise from those outside the steel admission fence disrupts his performance. The five-day 'tribal gathering' of 600,000 poignantly points to the commercial nature of music while lightly lampooning the drug culture and its 'love and peace' message. The residents of the island are also teased. The local constable has offered amnesty to anyone who turns in their drugs and is surprised when no one takes him up. A retired Naval Intelligence Commander suspects the whole thing is a communist plot with undertones of 'black power'. But inside the festival, everything is groovy. Commercialism is a bummer. Pass the joint and enjoy the vibes. And hope we don't get sued.

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