Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Movie Review

On Sunday I saw Across the Universe, the new musical built around 34 Beatles songs which chronicles the sixties.

The film by Julie Taymor (I also loved Frida, her film about Frida Kahlo) is a marvel! The cast is young, and does a marvelous job recreating these Beatles songs, by itself a very challenging task--you don't want the music to pale in comparison to the original versions.

Using the Beatles' music in movies is nothing new. The band itself did it a few times times, nicely in A Hard Days Night (1964), and horribly in Help (1965).

The challenge in making such a movie, is that the director and cast are working with material which, to people of a certain age, is holy text. How badly can it go? Just rent the 1978 film version Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, possibly the worst musical ever made.

This film works. The love story fits the music, and the music fits the sixties. It has some nice touches--it introduces characters associated with Beatles songs (Maxwell, Rita, Sexy Sadie) and gives you lines from other songs (when I'm 64), and you expect the movie to move into those songs, but it surprises you, and doesn't.

I had a few problems with the film--parodic characters who seem to be versions of Ken Kesey, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Bill Graham come across as cleaned-up, Hollywood versions of those characters. At times the Vietnam violence seems a bit too stylized, too metaphorical. the ending was a bit too happy considering how the sixties ended. Still, these are minor quibbles given the ambitious task this director undertook, and the overall pleasure I felt watching the film.


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