Ang Lee's film celebrates Woodstock spirit

Ang Lee's film celebrates Woodstock spiritCannes  - Oscar-winning director Ang Lee admits he also was swept along with the spirit of Woodstock when making his tribute to the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival.

"I was in peace and happiness making the film," said Taiwanese- born Lee Saturday at a press conference marking the screening of his Taking Woodstock at the Cannes Film Festival.

"I am not particularly a rock fan or person," US-based Lee said, who added that it wanted to explore the cultural phenomena surrounding the three-day music extravaganza.

"I'm not a hippy wannabee," said Lee, but he went on to say: "This is a movie about happiness".

Taking Woodstock also marks the 40th anniversary of the festival, with music greats of the time such as Santana, Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as well as Jimi Hendrix performing in the original concert.

In making Taking Woodstock Lee also takes a break from his recent run of serious-minded films.

Apart from his Oscar-winning 2005 film Brokeback Mountain about two gay cowboys trying find their way around the harsh social realities of rural America in the 1960s, Lee looked back at American middle-class discontent in his 1997 film The Ice Storm.

More recently came Lust, Caution, about intrigue and political resistance in Japanese-occupied Shanghai as well as movie about the US superhero Hulk.

However, Lee's Woodstock movie is less about the music and is essentially more of a comedy about the events in one family in small town America that helped to pave the way for the mass event which made music history.

With the bank threatening to foreclose on Elliott Teichberg's dilapidated family's motel in a quiet rural corner of upstate New York, the young would-be entrepreneur launched negotiations with the organizers of the festival to hold the concert.

Three weeks later, half a million people turned up for the event, which marked the high point of late 1960s pop culture and that was staged on a 600-acre dairy farm owned by Teichberg's neighbour Max Yasgur.

Starring American comedian Demetri Martin as Teichberg, the real- life Teichberg later changed his name to Tibor and wrote a book about the festival which changed his life.

British actors Henry Goodman and Imelda Staunton play the young Elliot Teichberg's larger-than-life Jewish immigrant parents.

"Music was my first connection with Woodstock," said leading American actor Emile Hirsch, who played a young Vietnam vet suffering post combat trauma, who has just returned to the town after serving in the war.

Martin believes that it was important to see Woodstock in the context of the Vietnam War. "You forget this were kids going to war," he told the Cannes press conference.

Woodstock also came in the early stages of the gay liberation movement in America with Teichberg, both in real life and in the film, helping to pave the way for the concert against the backdrop of his growing awareness of his own sexuality.

Lee's Taking Woodstock also includes a cross-dressing ex-Marine called Vilma who becomes the Teichberg family security officer.

This is not the first time that Lee has used gay figures in his films to tell his story.

Besides the tragic story of the two cowboys Innis and Jack in Brokeback Mountain, his 1993 The Wedding Banquet tells the tale of the efforts by a Taiwanese American to hide his gay relationship from his visiting parents.

But speaking at his Cannes press conference, Lee insisted that using gay characters was just one way to tell stories about the nature of society.

Taking Woodstock, said Lee, included many human elements, adding that everybody has their complications. (dpa)