This comment is on the ten hour version available on DVD.
I'd advise approaching this with caution. What it will mean to you depends a lot on how old you are and what you look for in life.
If you are not old enough to have lived through this, what you will get is the impression that The Beatles were something of a fad. They didn't matter much then, except economically, and matter even less now. The interviews with the older members of the group could give you the impression that they discount the period as well. Hey. It was fun, but that's that.
If you believe that the world works as a collection of emergent forces which can produce lasting change in the universe; if you believe that The Beatles were unique and important agents in this...
Then you will be profoundly disappointed by this.
In 1968, we got an authorized biography of the The Beatles. It was a fluff piece that was part celebration and part disinformation. It was engineered by roadie Neil Aspinall, who in the confusion after Brian Epstein's death assumed control of Apple. This is his project as well, and it is of the same cloth.
We do get interviews with the remaining Beatles, those alive at the time (plus lots from Neil himself). And we do get some of the public history and their songs. But we get none of the real things that were happening. We get no information from insiders and observers. We get absolutely no discussion of any kind on the religious and artistic controversies that were at the core of the dissolution.
So far as John was concerned, we have only what Yoko would allow: that he was as saint. There's nothing about her affair with Paul, her enticing John into a lifelong heroin addiction. There's nothing about the radical shift into tarot and kabbalah. Nothing about his meanness.
Paul comes off as utterly unlikable, which may be fair. But there's nothing about the Asher family experience which was the thing that inserted literacy into the equation. Nothing about Jane and Alice in Wonderland. Nothing about the amazing connections in the intellectual underground of the time and Pepper.
George is surely the most at ease with himself, but it would have been nice for us to learn that in addition to be being genuinely spiritual, he is the most affected by appearance. We don't hear about his obsessions with gentlemanly surroundings, his cosmetic surgery, his racecars or experiments with soma-induced kundalini yoga.
It would have been nice to hear why Ringo's naive but amazingly intuitive drumming spawned many of the songs, and why the others were in awe of his purported past lives.
There are two main trunks of the narrative tradition, at least in the English-speaking world.
One comes to us as human reflection. Its origins are Greek and reflected in the reinvention of the Bible as a Greek text. In popular life, it comes to us through Goethe, Bulwer-Lytton (yes, he matters) and the Kerouak/Ginsburg movement. Bob Dylan is our musical poet from the 60's in this line, and amazingly influential in shaping this thread. All modern irony finds it root here, and by this I mean the large class of symmetric/dissymmetric celebrations that we collectively call irony. And much of noir.
This tradition because of the way it is put together writes its own history. So we have many projects, for instance on that man that was a giant, Dylan. (I'm waiting for the Tod Haynes project.)
The other tradition uses external folds. It comes to us through Shakespeare, Joyce, Lewis Carroll and the Beatles. They are even more important in shaping how we dream, and the vocabulary of how many movies twist it. Its also highly reflective but from the viewer's perspective. We can see all the layers. We can build rich metaphors and ambiguities. Its the stuff of solar poetry, not the stuff of religious angst.
But we have essentially no films that tackle the Beatles, excepting that ambitious Taymor project which dealt with the Beatles more as music machine than worldfolders. All we have, basically, is this. Part of the reason is that this branch doesn't value self-reflection unless it is describing it.
We literally know more about Shakespeare than the three songwriting geniuses here. And so all of us waited for this, because we thought we might get some further insight into the nature of the game from 67-69. All of us had low expectations because its Neil's project and Yoko demanded that John only be depicted as a saint. But at least we thought that since they had their shot at exploiting the fab four one more time, we would at least see afterward some insight. I'm writing this 12 years after the Anthology was released, and we are worse off than before.
Because all we have is this. Probably, all we will ever have is this. Its ten plus hours, and three serious minutes with any of their songs after 1966 will tell you more.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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