Would the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair of August 1969 maintain its sturdy cultural significance without the 1970 film Woodstock, the Oscar-winning documentary that captured the event in all its muddy, drug-infused, glory? Probably. In the face of massive obstacles (traffic, sanitation, weather) this unprecedented gathering of 400,000-plus youths was both a stunning display of communal cooperation and the occasion for a score of legendary musical performances. Not something easily forgotten. Yet there's no denying the enormous role that the film played in cementing the festival into our historical consciousness. This reissue marks the event's 40th anniversary, offering a director's-cut expansion and a third DVD with additional, previously unreleased numbers. Some of the added material reminds us how much deplorable music was endured by attendees: for all the stirring performances the official film captures -- the Who, Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, among them -- this version also serves up the grueling white-boy blues offerings of Canned Heat, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and the Grateful Dead. These are thankfully offset by new footage of Creedence Clearwater Revival's compact, butt-kicking "Born on the Bayou" and "I Put a Spell on You." DVD bonuses aside, Woodstock remains a marvel -- one of the handful of music-related documentaries deserving of its continued reputation. To their vast credit, director Michael Wadleigh and his team of editors (chief among them a young Martin Scorsese), resist the temptation to concoct a self-congratulatory cinematic love fest of hippie unity. Rather, with their brilliantly realized use of split-screen action, the filmmakers present the festival in full: we hear from counterculture sloganeers, suburban kids out of their element, locals both exasperated and embracing of the unexpected invasion. And never is the accumulating filth much out of sight.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.