Friday, November 26, 2021

A Few Thoughts On Part One of the "Get Back" Documentary

There was a time when the Beatles Let It Be film could be found on YouTube in about nine separate segments. I had seen the film on the big screen once before, when I was about 13. It was less than a year after John Lennon had been killed, and the thrill of finally getting the chance (after missing it at the Pittsburgh Playhouse's film screenings, several months prior) ensured that it was a great film in my young mind. One memory of that screening was that the snare drum break in "Two of Us" sounded like a synthesizer, as it reverberated off the walls of the old Stanley Theater.

Watching the film online - several years after the Anthology series had come out, incidentally - there were some cool moments in it, but the film quality and the lack of energy through most of it made it a little... dull. Not as dull as Magical Mystery Tour but not really all that captivating. I don't buy the whole idea of "you can tell they're about to break up" but it doesn't capture them at their best. Not until the rooftop concert. 

But that's another entry. 

Today, I'm here to discuss Part One of the Get Back documentary that's airing this weekend on Disney+. I started watching it last night, following a Thanksgiving meal that couldn't be beat, foolishly thinking that I could make it through two and a half hours of watching a screen because it's the Beatles. That proved to be untrue. In fact, it started to feel a little tedious again, despite the crisp quality of the film. But when I returned to the final hour this morning, it was interesting again. 

First, here are the distractions. I was bothered by the continual use of audio that doesn't match up with the visuals onscreen. Sure there was a huge amount of footage for Peter Jackson to utilize, but this gets a little annoying when the camera is on George plaing while John or Paul are doing the talking, and they aren't speaking to George. If he had used this device once in a while, it would have been a little better. But he relies on it a lot and feels like cheating.

Second, the idea that the band gave themselves is pretty preposterous, even for the Biggest Band in the World. They want to put on a big concert - in less than a few weeks times because Ringo has a prior commitment that started at the end of the month - but they're going in to rehearsal with no idea where they'll do it or what they'll play. When they look tired or bored, that's not necessarily how they feel. They're under a whole lot of pressure to figure out this big concept in a short amount of time. On top of that, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (whose nasal voice reminds me Inspector Fenwick for the Dudley Do-Right cartoons) keeps suggesting they perform an open-air concert in Libya. The idea is floated in one segment to have the band and a bunch of the fans sail on a ship to the place where they will perform.

Get Back is probably a film for Beatle fanatics only. Despite the quick cuts, watching it compares a lot to watching any band's rehearsal, where things move slowly. You don't always get complete songs. (In fact, it feels like you don't get them most of the time.) There is a lot of hamming up during the songs, not for the camera but for each other. 

At the same time, therein lies a lot of the charm. It's the Beatles rehearsing for Pete's sake. The footage strips away the mythology and the legend and reveals them acting like a "normal" band, talking about chord changes and where to put little tags at the end of a phrase, and what to take out because it sounds corny. 

Most significantly, there is a section where Paul McCartney is riffing on his bass, trying to come up with an idea for a song. As he continues playing, you can actually see the gears click as he comes up with "Get Back." Whether or not you consider it one of his best songs, the moment is fun to see. It's also great hearing the lads take a shot at George's "All Things Must Pass," in which Paul adds a harmony and John plays organ. The harmony is an especially telling moment, revealing how these guys were so in sync with each other than Paul knew exactly what note to choose. 

The Yoko haters will probably be out in full force despite the fact that today's installment should rewrite the record. At the end of this secction, following George Harrison's walk-out, the other three take part in a noisy jam, with Yoko wailing away into the mike. After a major curveball that George threw them, it was good to see them having some fun, which included Paul leaning into his amp trying to get some feedback going. So while Yoko was at John's arm through most of it, she was hardly disrupting the band. And she was also seen talking and smiling with Linda Eastman (soon to be McCartney) after Linda makes her entrance.

Being a Beatle fanatic, I am enjoying the way Jackson presents the chronology of the event, indicating the start of each day by depicting a calendar and zooming in on the date. The climax of this episode leaves us in suspense. George has walked out, telling the others, "I'll see you at the clubs." I think his walk-out came as a result of a fist-fight or near fist-fight that he had with John, which was not captured on film. (I'm vaguely remembering a passage from a book about these sessions.) Jackson does employ some slow-motion techniques during this part to play up the drama, which seems a bit excessive. But if the cameras were stopped when the whole thing went down, I suppose it makes sense.

Looking forward to Part Two.

1 comment:

Sexily Leona said...
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