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Festival Express

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Bob Smeaton's documentary follows a dozen bands who in 1970 were loaded onto a train -- primed with amps, booze and a film crew -- and set off across Canada to play concerts. At best, the film captures an interesting moment in popular music when some bands could bounce easily across genres -- blues, rock, folk, country, soul -- and when the prevailing ethos meant huge acts like the Grateful Dead could noodle away all night with Buddy Guy and Ian and Sylvia just for the musical hell of it. Contemporary interviews with the musicians reinforce this; the promoter is still carping about losing money. But the film is mostly concert performances with the Dead, The Band and Janis Joplin front and center. Joplin's stage presence is so manic that the camera can't even keep her in frame: You can't really catch rock 'n' roll lightning in a bottle -- or on film. 2.5 cameras

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