The Beatles: GET BACK Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Beatles: GET BACK Review

Chris Morley gets back to 1969.
You'd be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking all that could possibly be said about the Beatles already has been. But when the newest interested party to join the conversation is Peter Jackson, with the backing of Apple Corps & indeed Disney+, and he's claiming to be able to show what went down as their epitaph of sorts (Let It Be, in its original Michael Lindsay-Hogg helmed form appearing little more than a far from fab Paul McCartney trying to marshal an equally off colour John Lennon, George Harrison & Ringo Starr into returning to their live roots, away from the studio as both refuge from the pressures of touring & instrument in its own right) and occasionally even have a bit of fun, something the original film often neglects as many have been at pains to point out, then it's worth at least glancing a curious eye over the end result. Though whether Jackson's intention is fully rectified here or not may still remain unanswered, depending on point of view.

The final fling, when it comes here in full as the curtain call following around eight hours of recovered footage from the Apple vaults, the famous rooftop concert, is of course a glorious pay-off as you might expect from the Fellowship of the Ringo, to coin a phrase from Jackson's own previous adopted & adapted body of work.

The smaller details, though, suggest it's George he's taken heed from in showing the creative life & sometimes lack thereof both within & without any of the four. Indeed, there's a very real sense of “the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion” even as they allow themselves to be captured on film.

Get Back (original working title for Let It Be) itself, consists of almost as much, if not more than, conversation as music, much of it while waiting for one of its major players to bother turning up for a day's work, across a total of 21 of them. It acts as an extended glimpse of what it felt like to be in what Harrison had called “the space between us all”. Much of the initial chat concerns how to present the anticipated finished product, the approved rooftop concert representing a compromise after concerns over original plans ranging from simply turning up somewhere completely unannounced on the point of trespass, setting up & ripping into a live set, to more elaborate alternatives as proposed by Lindsay- Hogg himself.
“Torchlit! In front of 2,000 Arabs!”
With things so often apparently teetering on the brink, it's little surprise that yes, there's tension - to the point of Harrison & Starr both leaving the sessions, though persuaded to return & see it through before an ending George himself had actually unknowingly predicted at the height of the very fame that made playing live such a chore...simply by pointing out that it couldn't go on as it had been!

That retrospective hindsight forms part of the potted history of the band's dizzying highs up to the reconstituted then-present of 1969, which makes up but a flash of the introduction to Part One.

Parts Two & Three, then, we might well assume, show us how & why it went all went so far south. And sure enough they do. But aside from the disagreements over presentation & seeming abandonment of almost any song not penned by Lennon, McCartney or indeed the rightly lauded pairing of the two of them for what became the final record, a third & hitherto relatively unexamined facet comes to light. Namely the suggestion that the four men making the music simply feel they've outgrown it & need to move forward.
Consider the omissions of a few titbits which would later become fair-sized solo hits for their authors, first tried in either full band or solo arrangements to seemingly fill what often feels like rather a lot of downtime......which in most other bands would have made the final cut, as it were! Harrison's All Things Must Pass & Lennon's Child Of Nature, later tweaked into Jealous Guy, are probably the big two in that regard. Just by way of a few further additions of note we could throw in his Gimme Some Truth & McCartney's The Back Seat Of My Car,as later dusted off for Wings. And yet even as they consign these to the studio floor possibly knowing this is their last dance together before their card is marked, there is at least joy for them in run-throughs of a few old hits & choice cover versions. Perhaps an attempt to recapture the sparkle even amidst the clear struggle of doing so, the seemingly previously unstoppable apparent spontaneity with which the songs came running dry, fits & starts often the order of the creative process as shown here.
But a touch of the old urgency is still there in dribs & drabs. Witness McCartney seemingly pulling Get Back from thin air as proof positive. But it does quickly become clear that, much like what's shown of the experience of making it happen, there's a lot of sitting around for such snatches of inspiration, and however much Jackson throws at the whole process aided & abetted by techniques used to similar & dare it be said better & more lasting effect on First World War documentary They Shall Not Grow Old with/for the Imperial War Museum.

As Alexis Petridis of the Guardian succinctly puts it-
“The moments of inspiration and interest are marooned amid acres of desultory chit-chat (“aimless rambling”, as Lennon rightly puts it) and repetition. There is a point, about five hours in, when the prospect of hearing another ramshackle version of Don’t Let Me Down becomes an active threat to the viewer’s sanity. “
Jackson, though, saves his best trick for last. Once the band have made it onto the roof he shows it in split screen, shared with footage of the street below and police arguing with the building’s receptionist, giving 40 minutes of untrammelled joy. It comes with a caveat which holds true of most of even the merest hints of prior genius, because however charitably disposed we could be towards, what is in a sense, two albums for the price of one, it's hard not to feel that it was an inordinately long and winding road to get there.

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