Length: 3 x episodes (138-173 minutes each)
It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact The Beatles have had on popular music. To this day their influence remains indelible. So much so, in fact, that at times it’s tough to remember that people made this music.
Young, flawed, imperfect people, replete with the same neuroses, bad habits and peccadillos that plague the rest of us.
Nowhere is that more clear than in director Peter Jackson’s supersized documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, a revealing, exhaustive (and at times exhausting!) look at the making of Let it Be, the Beatles’ final studio album.
The first thing you need to know about The Beatles: Get Back is that it’s not like other documentaries. There’s no handy narrator to introduce you to what’s going on, just a scant few on screen explanations and then the footage tells its own story.
And what footage it is. 55 hours (!) of video footage and 140 hours (!!!) of audio was made available for Jackson and crew, who spent four years editing the footage into three “episodes” of 157, 173 and 138 minutes respectively.
So, yeah, this doco is a chonk.
The documentary covers the 21 days in the studio where The Beatles rehearse, improve, tweak and nail down the song list for Let it Be. The entire caper climaxes in a rousing 42 minute rooftop concert, much to the delight (or chagrin) of residents of 1969 Savile Row, London.
The thing is, by 1969? The Beatles were pretty bloody sick of one another. Oh, don’t get us wrong, they enjoyed playing music together but the tension between the band members - Paul and John in particular - is palpable.
See, these blokes had been playing together for yonks and after achieving absurd levels of fame, they clearly needed a long break. It’s fascinating to watch them interact and react to one another.
Paul with his aggressive micromanaging of his bandmates, John with his constant shadow Yoko Ono and a perpetual air of above-it-all disdain, George who just looks tired of the prickly prima donnas he’s forced to work with and poor bloody Ringo who just wants to play some tunes and maybe have a pint.
Peter Jackson, using the same film restoration technique he perfected in the fascinating WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, brings the 52-year-old footage to vibrant life, and for much of the runtime you get the experience of being a fly on the wall.
For people who are a bit ambivalent about The Beatles? This will probably feel like torture as endless rehearsals, bickering and eventual creative catharsis will feel unbearably tedious.
For super fans, however? This will be like manna from heaven. A warts and all look at the creative process of the fab four, showing how great art can spring forth from extremely less than ideal circumstances.
There are a bunch of highlights, but one that stands out is when George Harrison and Ringo Starr - both quite bored by the ongoing hissy fits of Paul and John - come together and create the music and lyrics to Octopus’s Garden.
Another notable moment is when George quits the band, only to come back a while later rocking a brand new rage-moustache and increased confidence. Honestly, it’s fascinating to watch the near Metallica: Some Kind of Monster levels of sooky dysfunction on display.
Of course, the most notable moment is the concluding rooftop gig where we see the boys in their last live performance all together. It’s hard not to get at least a little emotional at the sight of it, and watching the gormless cops ineffectually try to shut them down is a hoot.
Imagine being immortalised on film trying to stop The Beatles from playing!
Ultimately The Beatles: Get Back is a documentary made by a super fan (Peter Jackson) for superfans. Casuals should probably stick to the original docu-film made from this footage Let it Be (1970).
However, obsessives who yearn to know everything about the iconic group and how they worked will want to run through these strawberry fields forever.
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