Somewhere during the third or fourth hour I began to feel a little bit Beatle–ed out. But I’d suspected that would happen so it wasn’t a big surprise and I knew I’d eventually…well, feel proud about having watched the whole thing. Which I am.
It’s basically fly-on-the-wall stuff. Quite interesting. A casual, shaggy, very cool hang. But after a while it loses a little something. Zero narrative tension, of course, but that’s built into the concept. It almost bores at times but not quite. Because I’ve never really seen or felt the Beatles this “unguarded”, this “just being themselves”, or smoking this much. I’ve never felt this much access to their inner vibe or sanctum, if you will.
From John Anderson’s Wall Street Journal review:
Tapped out in stages through the day…
Anderson is correct in calling Get Back many things (including occasionally tedious) rolled into one. 60 hours of footage boiled down to 468 minutes (nearly eight hours) — a chopped English salad of this and that song or conversation or mood jag, pieces of fun and improv and shaggy affectionate humor and experimentation, and so much smoking you’ll feel cancer seeping into your lungs. (There’s actually a warning about the smoking at the beginning of each episode.)
It’s never not interesting, and you gradually begin to pick up on things implied and unsaid.
Episode #1 covers the first seven days, and ends on 1.10.69. Most of it consists of casual, enjoyable playing of new and old tunes. The best musical performance by far is of an old standard — Chuck Berry’s “Rock & Roll Music”.
A fair amount of “Abbey Road” numbers are played in rough form.
The 16mm image quality is very good considering. The cropped HD scanning (16 x 9 aspect ratio) has a high-grade clarity. No noticeable grain to speak of.
It’s fascinating when cameras are focused on a verbal discussion while Paul McCartney’s first stabs at “Let It Be” are heard in the background.
Nobody except Linda Eastman (who drops by a couple of times) says a word to Yoko “black hole” Ono, and who could blame them?
George Harrison’s frustration with McCartney’s ego & dominant band-leading (which was conveyed in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s original half-century-old doc) is not especially readable here. George’s temporary departure was reportedly preceded by a big lunch-hour blowup between himself and the reportedly heroin-sedated John, but this happens off–camera.
There’s a fascinating discussion between Paul and others about how John and Yoko ‘s obsessive relationship prevented John and Paul from seeing each other and thereby composing together, and how Yoko’s constant presence led to a blocking of the old collaborative hormones.
There’s a SERIOUSLY MESMERIZING passage near the beginning of episode #2 in which John and Paul retire to the lunch room to privately discuss George having “quit” the band, but Hogg and his team have covertly planted a mike in a flower pot and so we hear every line, every word. And Jackson prints out the dialogue as it happens.
Once the Harrison-quitting episode is resolved, what little narrative tension the doc had is out the window.
12:30 pm update: Most of episode #2 (which runs 173 minutes) happens inside the newly created basement recording studio at Apple headquarters on Saville Row. This is where they record the “Get Back” album — not the worst Beatles album (that would be “Magical Mystery Tour”) but the second worst.
Seriously: Episode #2 is less interesting, a bit flabbier than episode #1. Do I need to watch the whole thing? Can I just jump to episode #3?
This will sound petty, of course, but somewhere in the middle of episode #2 (i.e., Saville Row recording studio) and for a couple of days, George Harrison begins wearing a pair of black high-tops with thick white laces. And they really look awful — about as far away from HE’s Italian suede lace–up aesthetic as you can get. Absurd as it may sound, those high-tops brought me down.
2:20 pm update: Episode #2 (173 mins.) has finally ended. Episode #3 (138 mins.) has begun. It’s been a long and winding road since I began watching this bear yesterday afternoon. With all due respect, I’m starting to feel a little John, Paul, George and Ringo–ed out.
3:45 pm update: The Saville Row roof concert is good. A little short (what is it, seven or eight songs?) but a crescendo of sorts. Observed by maybe 100 or so onlookers on nearby rooftops and whatnot. The delighted fans down below can’t see a thing. Two young policemen knock on the Apple door with noise complaints from older people, and insisting that the volume levels are too loud. Mal Evans takes them up on the roof. Their mindsets are so banal. ‘Twas ever thus.
I liked Jackson’s decision to use a horizontal split-screen presentation during the concert…three screens, two screens, occasional singles.
Altogether a historic achievement. I’m not sure how truly great or (if you’re reading Poland) Shoah-level it might be, but it’s one marathon-sized music epic that you probably need to submit to.
Peter Jackson says his greatest fear making The Beatles doc #GetBack was finding out one or more of them were “primadonnas or assholes.”
They were not. “They are good guys… It sounds so simplistic. But I’m so happy that the four Beatles turned out to be good guys. Nice guys.” pic.twitter.com/MgixYe46ds
— Kevin Polowy (@djkevlar) November 24, 2021