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‘Let It Be’, rehabilitated: the cursed Beatles film becomes luminous | Culture

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Unlike their idolized Elvis Presley, the Beatles never stopped their fruitful musical career to make films. They prioritized working in the studio to raise the level on each album. But, even so, they left a handful of films: two light comedies (A Hard Day’s Night y Help!), a cartoon fantasy (Yellow Submarine), in which they did not get too involved; a disconcerting psychedelic TV movie (Magical Mystery Tour). Y Let It Be, the cursed film, the documentary that was seen in its time as the chronicle of its decomposition.

Let It Be It was recorded during the sessions that the band held in London in January 1969, which were very stressful for the four from Liverpool, uncomfortable being filmed at all hours. It was left in a drawer. And it was not published (as an album and as a film) until May 1970, when Paul McCartney had already announced (just a month before) the end of the band. The feature film was received bitterly, and the viewer at the time could not stop watching it from the shock of the abrupt ending. None of the four supported her either. beatles, who already had their solo albums ready: when it was awarded the Oscar for best soundtrack, they commissioned Quincy Jones, director of the ceremony’s orchestra, to pick it up. The album did not have a better fortune: McCartney disowned it, dissatisfied with Phil Spector’s production, which he believed was excessive, and in 2003 he released an edition Nakednaked, without the trace of the creator of the wall of sound

The black legend of Let It Be It has been so long-lasting that at the beginning of the digital era the film disappeared from catalogs. It was not on any television platform, collectors were looking for traces of old DVDs and fans had to resort to piracy. Until now. This Wednesday, Disney+ premieres the film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, remastered by Park Road Post Production, Peter Jackson’s team (The Lord of the rings). Jackson dedicated the time of the pandemic to working on the original tapes of the film, 60 hours of video and 150 of audio, to make the impressive documentary Get Back, released in 2021 and also on Disney. Get Back It used the most advanced technologies and some artificial intelligence to shine that footage, and it resulted in almost eight hours of documentary, in three chapters, full of interesting unpublished material. An extended (very extended) version of Let It Be, which only lasts 80 minutes. The next step was to rehabilitate this cursed film. And, with today’s eyes, the result is much brighter than was remembered.

The image quality has improved significantly (some object to a certain color abuse); The sound has been cleaned of noise and is splendid. The most valuable thing, what his other films don’t have, is that we lock ourselves in the studio with four kids who haven’t turned 30, who have overflowing creativity and whose songs fall out of their pockets. There is still chemistry between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and it is George Harrison who rebels against his supporting role. From those apparently chaotic sessions came the album Let It Bebut also a large part of the themes of Abbey Road (his next project, his true farewell, which ended with The End). But Abbey Road was launched in November 1969, and was very well received, while Let It Be It took six more months and arrived in stores at a bad time. Those three weeks of work also resulted in some songs released later in their solo careers, and a lot of others that were discarded (this is the case of the rocking and festive Suzie Parker).

The new version of Let It Be includes, at the beginning, a brief dialogue between Lindsay-Hogg and Jackson (who does not appear in the credits other than in the acknowledgments). The director of the original film explains that what he was going to make was a documentary about the Beatles’ return to the stage. The Fab Four had not performed in front of an audience since 1966: they had not wanted to be distracted from how much they were innovating in the studio. This time they intended to reappear in a big way, for which they used pharaonic ideas: the most ambitious was to embark with the public in England and play in a Roman amphitheater in Libya. The director filmed the sessions from which the songs for that gig would come out, thinking that this would be secondary material, that the central thing would be the concert. Jackson can’t help but express his envy: he worked with that material himself, knowing all those songs well, but Lindsay-Hogg had had the privilege of witnessing them being created in front of his cameras.

The Beatles burned through stages very quickly: when others reached where they had indicated, they were already on to something else. At the beginning of 1969 they had ended psychedelic experimentation and their white album the previous year marked their return to basic rock. That made it easier to regain contact with the public. It is perceived in the film that they feel a certain need to return to their origins: they play their old songs (they rescue One After 909, written by Lennon when he was 15 years old!) and by the masters of rock and roll; they even cover Kiss Me a lot, one of those that played in the beginning. They try to recover the spirit of Hamburg or The Cavern, where they cut their teeth with many concerts before tasting fame.

when he rode Let It BeLindsay-Hogg skipped much of the material about the band’s intimacy and prioritized showing them making music. Get Back, In its almost eight hours, it has much more space to tell the story, or the gossip depending on how you look at it: it is more similar to a Big Brother, and it is understandable that they would get fed up with the experiment. Jackson’s production in 2021 has another attraction that is barely suggested here: understanding the creative process of each song, from the moment you hum the idea until it coalesces into a perfect song.

The Beatles, starting their concert on the roof of Apple Corps in London, January 30, 1969. Ethan A. Russell (Apple Corps)

That’s why, Let It Be It is more aimed at the viewer enjoying the music, and is more acceptable to those who are not so unconditional of the band as to dedicate eight hours to them. The film also includes, but in measured doses, improvisations in the studio, rehearsals and some conversations between them, in which a certain tension is observed. It is clear that Paul has taken the reins against a less involved John. There are iconic moments, like the waltz danced by Lennon and Yoko Ono (omnipresent and always silent) while Harrison sings. I Me Mine. They are seen having a great time in some jam session (very enthusiastic which gives rise to Dig It from Like a Rolling Stone Dylan). And there is a brief argument that seems to anticipate the breakup, when Harrison stands up to McCartney over his orders: “I’ll play whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play if you don’t want me to play. I will do whatever you say to please you.” After that crash (that is no longer counted in Let It Bebut yes and with all the detail in Get Back), Harrison disappeared for six days. Neither in the film nor in the subsequent series is it easy to understand what Ringo Starr, sheltered in a secondary role, thinks of all this. Another difference: in Get Back The key role that keyboardist Billy Preston played in directing the project, who is competing for the disputed title of fifth beatle with more merits than others.

Harrison’s irritation with the experiment Let It Be He ended up putting an end to the idea of ​​playing in an amphitheater in Libya. But Lindsay-Hogg had gone to film the making of of a concert. So in the end there had to be one, which turned out to be much more modest but equally historic. It’s the famous surprise concert on the roof of Apple Corp’s London studios, well filmed from above and below. At first, when the sound thunders from the roof, only a few curious people stop on the street. Some seem to wonder: could it really be them?, because those newly composed songs were not known. Other people manage to climb to other nearby rooftops and can’t believe it. There was already a good crowd on the sidewalks when the performance, which lasted only 42 minutes, ended under the tense gaze of police officers. Lennon says goodbye on behalf of the band with his usual sarcasm: “We hope we passed the audition.” Did you sense that it was your last performance together? John, who had been the founder, never forgave that it was Paul who announced the breakup.

More than half a century later, you can see Let It Be without regret because those prodigious talents have just parted ways. He enjoys a band of unmatched creativity, who enters the studio without having a plan and comes out with material for more than two albums, full of emblematic songs. The musical level continues to be very high, although the group’s cohesion showed the wear and tear of eight years of excessive success. They pointed out an interesting path, that of the Beatles that they would have been in the seventies, but they decided to take the next journey each on their own.

Disney is thus advancing its plan to exploit The Beatles franchise as it does with Marvel or Star Wars. More projects are coming about the Liverpool quartet: Sony has announced, for 2027, four biopicsone for each of its members, all directed by Sam Mendes (the filmmaker of 1917). The industry knows that it is very difficult for those who love the Beatles to get tired of them.

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