Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Le Cinema Du Beatles

I recently watched Julie Taymor's Across The Universe, a live action (with some animation) musical drama set in the 1960s and 70s to music from The Beatles. I'm a big fan of The Beatles (not as odd a fit for a metalhead as you might imagine) and was looking forward to the film. I'm not a follower of Taymor's work per se but I liked her Shakespeare adaptation, Titus.

Across The Universe was odd. On the one hand the perfomers made mostly credible performances (particularly Dana Fuchs) and it was well filmed. But the literalization of the songs... that is, setting the songs into contexts within a real-world story was really jarring. When I listen to The Beatles I don't necessarily have a specific set of mind-pics to go with the tone and lyrics. The closest thing might be the old-fashioned and cliche answer of 'psychelic imagery'.... more or less like the animated film Yellow Submarine. I just know concrete 'romantic drama' scenes, however appropriate they might be to the time The Beatles reigned, just doesn't work. So this film might be the worst case of 'doesn't go with how I imagined it' that I've ever seen... and as I said, I don't have specific imaginings for the songs. The trippy scenes (I Am The Walrus, Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite) were the most 'accurate' to me.

I'm not an acid-head or anything, but Yellow Submarine (and earlier live action Beatle films as well as the album covers) probably have limited my view. In addition I'd have to say that Yellow Submarine is an incredible film itself, almost criminally underappreciated today. I can't believe how much my kids like it too, considering the time it was made, the Peter Max art style, and how 'dinosaur days' The Beatles themselves are. But you can't kill great music it seems. The children wanted, and have had, The Beatles on their ipods for ages now.

I think Across The Universe was an okay film and I have to respect it for attempting the herculean task of trying to make a 'new' Beatles picture, as it were. Particularly trying to make it literal. But I just couldn't get hip.

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