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"You're on fire!"

Posted at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2007 by Euan Kerr

Morrissey looks almost happy performing before the crowd in Julien Temple's "Glastonbury," (Image courtesy THINKFILM)

There is a point in "Glastonbury" Julien Temple's homage to the long running three day open air music festival, where someone shots out "You're on fire." The disembodied voice is calling, not to guitar wizard or drumming ace, but a fire dancer. He's a young man skillfully twirling lighted torches on long wires, but such is his reverie that he doesn't notice the front of his shirt is alight.

It's emblematic of the film: over two hours of a documentary of people really engrossed in what they are doing, which is mainly listening to live music, but also involves running around in strange costumes, (or naked,) dancing wildly, getting stoned/drunk/exhausted, or splashing around in the famous Glastonbury mud. There are some big name musicians too: Ray Davies, David Bowie, Pulp, the Chemical Brothers, Coldplay, to name just a few. Yet we rarely get more than a few verses from any of them, and from some (James Brown) none at all.

Personally I found it a pleasant enough experience to watch it, but this film will drive many people batty because, like a large scale outdoor concert, it's generally unfocused, even with big names on stage.

Julian Temple is the guy who got into film by stealing a camera and capturing the heyday of the Sex Pistols on celluloid. He tried his hand at feature films making the under-rated "Absolute Beginners" which was a box-office bust and then the gloriously cheesy "Earthgirls are Easy," which is one of the funniest movies ever made.

I interviewed him then and we got into an argument about the speed of cutting between shots. I put it to him that it was getting to the point, particularly in the video world that people couldn't absorb all the material being presented to them. His view was he was producing videos for young people and they had no problem keeping up, so what was my issue?

That was 1988, and he has been proven right on the money.

Since then he's been doing mainly music films, and he has apparently constructed this one out of tape gathered from festivals over the years, mixed in with an interview with Michael Eavis, the one-time farmer who runs the festival on his land.

The editing is still really fast, and that's good because if you aren't interested in a scene, it'll be done soon. It's not good when the Velvet Underground thunders on with "All Tomorrow's Parties" and then disapears just as fast.

But isn't it nice to think that if indeed you are on fire, someone will tell you?

March 2007
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