F.: Anthony B. Richmond. M.: Jabez Olssen. Mus.: The Beatles. Int.: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. Prod.: Clare Olssen, Jonathan Clyde, Peter Jackson, Ken Kamins, Jeff Jones. The Walt Disney Studios, Apple Corps and WingNut Films Productions Ltd. DCP. D.: 138’. Col.
In January 1969, the Beatles assembled at Twickenham Film Studios in west London to write and rehearse songs for a new album. The idea was to film their sessions there, perform somewhere in public (proposals ranged from an amphitheatre in Libya to the Giza Pyramids), and then release the edited result as a movie. It would be their first concert since 1966, when touring had become too frustrating for them (“it was like being in Fellini’s Satyricon,” said Lennon later on). Over the course of a month, Michael Lindsay-Hogg and his team filmed the Beatles with two 16mm cameras; additional audio was recorded with a Nagra reel-to-reel recorder, capturing a total of over 60 hours of film and even more audiotape. By the time Lindsay-Hogg’s documentary Let It Be appeared in May 1970, the band had come to an end and the film became ‘the breakup movie’, a dour, dimly lit portrayal of bitter resentments and collapsing relationships.
Peter Jackson’s staggering 468-minute Get Back transformed this narrative. Get Back is also about Jackson’s act of love for the band and his painstaking journey through hundreds of cans in search for a story. And about the miracle that is cinema when it’s able to capture art in the very place and very moment it’s happening: the restoration is so impressive that we really feel as if we are there, in 3 Savile Row, amid yellow teacups and overflowing ashtrays, witnessing the Beatles creating new songs (something that feels natural and supernatural at once, like watching Pollock dripping paint on to a canvas). The third and final chapter, leading to the legendary and uncut rooftop concert, opens on 26 January with Ringo strumming Octopus’s Garden on the piano and George joining him with his guitar. A distinctive tenderness permeates their interactions. We then see girlfriends and children hanging out for part of the sessions, hear Paul talking about the future with palpable uncertainty, John discussing a new manager. Some songs are still missing lyrics or a title. Yet – and we can see it in the way Paul and John make eye contact – the very moment that music happens we have no doubt that the creative energy and the genius is still all there, pure and untouched, going straight to our bones.“Our ears hear the same music, made crisper and brighter,” wrote Adam Gopnik, “offering the same complicated feelings as it did 50 years ago, but our eyes adjust to a brighter light and a clearer image with a newly happy mood. A brighter Beatles seems truthful to any time we see them in. The Beatles were born bright.”
A special thanks to Olivia Harrison for making this happen.