Monday, October 10, 2011

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (film)



Directed by Martin Scorsese, George Harrison: Living in the Material World is a documentary about the life story of the legendary Beatles guitarist/songwriter and his amazing solo career. Featuring old interviews with Harrison from various archives, the film features interviews from surviving Beatles members Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plus associates like Yoko Ono and Sir George Martin. Also interviewed for the film are friends like Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Harrison’s first-wife Pattie Boyd, and members of his families including his second wife Olivia and their son Dhani. The documentary is an extraordinary film from Martin Scorsese about one of popular music’s greatest figures.

With any kind of documentary on a musician as famous as George Harrison. The idea is to go into the man’s life which has to include stories about the Beatles and various solo albums. Yet, George Harrison’s life was anything but conventional as Martin Scorsese knew that a traditional yet conventional documentary on the man can’t be done like that. Though the narrative for the film is very straightforward in its presentation, it does jump back a bit to either move forward to one brief period in time and then return back to the main narrative.

Since the film largely consists of interviews with friends and family of Harrison including interviews from Beatles associates like Neil Aspinall and Billy Preston (who both died in 2008 and 2006 respectively). The film also features some rare clips and home movies from the archives as it reveals Harrison’s life as it’s really about a musician trying to find some spiritual peace in a world filled with materialism. Through these interviews from the likes of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plus various musicians, actors, and other people. They reveal what kind of man Harrison is though they admit, he’s not entirely a saint.

The first half of the film discusses Harrison’s early life in Liverpool with interviews from his brothers Peter and Harry that leads to the formation of the Beatles and their arrival into Hamburg where they meet Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voorman. Then the story goes into the world of Beatlemania and what inspired Harrison to write his first song in Don’t Bother Me and eventually to his interest in Indian music and spirituality. Harrison’s first wife Pattie Boyd revealed a lot about Harrison’s devotion to spirituality as she believe the reason he wasn’t able to go further at that time was because of the Beatles. The first half ends with the making of The White Album as Eric Clapton revealed how he was brought in to play guitar on While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

The film’s second half revolves around the dissolution of the Beatles to Harrison’s solo career though not all of his solo albums are discussed. The second half also discusses Harrison’s struggle to spiritual peace at a time when he’s a major music star where rare footage of the 1974 tour for Dark Horse is shown where Harrison sounded rough in his vocal performance. It is around that time he met his second wife Olivia as it revealed more of his emphasis to meditate and chant while he would stumble upon other interests such as Formula 1 racing and films. The latter of which, is about how Harrison formed HandMade Films that released films like Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa, and Withnail & I all because he sold his house to fund the Monty Python film The Life of Brian.

Of course, the film does eventually lead to subjects like the Traveling Wilburys, the infamous stabbing on December of 1999, and his death in 2001. Yet, Scorsese chose to not go overly into these subjects as he is more interested in Harrison as a person and his devotion to spirituality. While it’s clear that people will feel like the film could’ve devoted more to Harrison’s music in the film’s second half. The music is part of Harrison’s world since he invests a lot of his spiritual ideas into the music he made as a solo artist while trying to prepare himself for death.

Through the editing of David Tedeschi and the camerawork of longtime Scorsese collaborator Robert Richardson, along with contributions from other cinematographers like Ellen Kuras and Harris Savides, Scorsese is able to craft a truly engrossing and fascinating documentary that really tells the story of this man’s life. While the first half of the film features some stories that people probably know since it revolves around the Beatles. It’s second half is the strongest portion as it focuses mostly on Harrison’s post-Beatles life and his solo work.

While the overall documentary may not be as strong as the Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home, George Harrison: Living in the Material World is still a well-made yet broad documentary film from Martin Scorsese. The film is something that both fans of Harrison and the Beatles will definitely want to watch while those who are less familiar with Harrison’s solo work will find this interesting. Even though it doesn’t cover all of the album and plays with its narrative a bit in an unconventional manner. Yet, it features some lively interviews from the people who knew him that includes some very funny stories about Harrison. In the end, George Harrison: Living in the Material World is a marvelous film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) - (Boxcar Bertha) - (Mean Streets) - (Italianamerican) - Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - (New York, New York) - (The Last Waltz) - Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - (After Hour) - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - (Goodfellas) - Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence - (Casino) - (Kundun) - (My Voyage to Italy) - Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues: Feel Like Going Home) - Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) - (No Direction Home) - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The Fifty Year Argument) - (Silence (2016 film))

© thevoid99 2011

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