Ang Lee Takes Woodstock
With the help of a bunch of Jews
Continuing the 40th-anniversary-of-Woodstock festivities, director Ang Lee has a new movie coming out, Taking Woodstock. It’s based on a memoir by Elliot Tiber, whose family owned an old-school Jewish bungalow colony in Bethel, New York, the Catskills town where the music festival took place. (No, Virginia, it wasn’t actually held in Woodstock.) In this telling, Tiber (played by Demetri Martin) was a closeted gay Manhattanite who returned home to help his parents with their failing motel; to drum up business, he arranged for a friend with a spare cow pasture to host a music festival that no neighboring towns wanted. Chaos, culture clash, and an iconic event of the 1960s ensued.
Lee told the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that the idea for the movie came about when he met an eagerly self-promotional Tiber at a talk show both were appearing on. Remembering the impact Woodstock made on him as a 14-year-old in repressive Taiwan, and eager to make a comedy after a string of depressing films (Brokeback Mountain; Lust, Caution), he took on the project. But did the director, known for his skill in capturing the feel of diverse times and places, find it a challenge to capture the feel of the waning Jewish world of the Catskills? Not really, he told the Journal, as everyone he works with, including writing partner James Schamus, is Jewish.
“I feel that Jewish people know Chinese people very well,” he said in the interview. “James, for example, understood me well even before I spoke fluent English; he would write my scripts as early as The Wedding Banquet, reading Chinese poetry, philosophy and literature as background, and then try to write the dialogue, and I would ask, ‘What is that?’ And out of frustration, he would give up and just write the characters like Jews, and I would say, ‘Oh, that’s very Chinese.’”
Ang Lee’s Catskills Culture Clash [Jewish Journal]
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.