Monday, July 07, 2008

Back from Vacation...Back to Reality

Was the beach...but now I'm back.

While on vacation I finally unwrapped and watched the DVD "Across the Universe" which I have had since Christmas. And here's the review...


I remember about 1 1/2 years ago seeing the first trailer for "Across the Universe". My first reaction was something along the lines of "Come on...give me a break...they are going to ruin the Beatles' songs" whilst images of Moulin Rouge filled my head. After looking up the movie online, I realized that there might be a chance that the film might be good...but I was still leary.

So I bought the DVD, but never got around to watching it. I took it to the beach because I knew that I would have time and since it was vacation (time to relax, not worry about things, etc.) if the movie turned out to be drivel and tripe, then oh well, at least I would still be at the beach and could easily make another Pina Colada to make me forget about it. Needless to say (what good is that idiom?), the movie was great. BTW, I did have a couple extra Pina Coladas anyway.

One of my hesitations going in was wondering how the vast scope of the Beatles songbook could be laced together to tell a coherent story. I knew that the background was Brit dude (named Jude, from Liverpool) comes to America, meets Lucy and falls in love during the tumult of the late '60's. So there was an expectation that the movie would be too political, too anti-war, too drug induced/trippy, etc. It was all those things, but I believe in just the right measures. A lot of the movie is told through the lyrics and the accompanying visuals...not a lot of dialog to push the story along. Mostly unknowns in the film, but very good appearances by Bono, Joe Cocker and Eddie Izzard.

Not every Beatles' song is in the film, hey, it's a 2-hour film...not a mini-series. For me it is kind of a love-hate thing for me. Having listened to The Beatles' my entire life, their music is ingrained into my being and I don't normally like other people re-doing the almost sacred. Take for example the soundtrack to the decent Sean Penn movie "I Am Sam". Loved the movie, the soundtrack not so much. About half the songs I liked because they were "true" to the original...not necessarily new artists trying to sound like the original, but trying at least to capture the original intent. The rest I could live without.

There are several good re-interpretations in this film however. One is "With a Little Help From My Friends". It starts out as the Sgt. Pepper's' version and morphs into the Joe Cocker version...very well done. But the best by far IMHO is toward the beginning when Prudence (yes...we have Lucy, Prudence, a Sadie and a Rita, along with Dr. Robert and Mr. Kite, more on this after the music discussion) is singing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". Here is my esteemed colleague's take on the music...

"The arrangements are sometimes familiar, sometimes radically
altered, and the voices are all new; the actors either sing or
sync, and often they find a mood in a song that we never knew
was there before. When Prudence sings "I Want to Hold Your Hand,"
for example, I realized how wrong I was to ever think that was a
happy song. It's not happy if it's a hand you are never, never,
never going to hold. The love that dare not express its name
turns in sadness to song."
Roger Ebert, Sept. 14, 2007

The film is full of stunning visuals and interpretations (Check out the interpretation of "She's So Heavy"!) However, the joy to be found is the multitude of references to other songs/lyrics/Beatles trivia scattered throughout the film. Of course there are the aforementioned character names...almost all of them are there. Some are a little obvious and you see them coming a mile away. Like when Prudence shows up in Sadie's apartment in NYC. She climbs up the fire escape, enters the apartment and makes herself at home. When Sadie sees her, she asks the other tennants, "Where did she come from?" Jude's reply? "She came in through the bathroom window."

Then there are the other small things that only the true Beatle-phile would pick up when Jude (the artist) is sitting at a table sketching an apple. He seems to have "artists' block", so he takes a knife and cuts the apple in half as if in desperation to get a new perspective on his subject. Yes the apple is a Granny Smith...wonderful reference. We also have Lucy's brother Max (yes, short for Maxwell). When he meets Sadie to rent a room in her apartment, she jokes that he doesn't look like the kind of guy that would murder his grandmother with a hammer. Priceless! I will definitely be watching the film again...I am sure I missed the majority of the references...much like the first viewing of the video to "Free as a Bird".

Okay... a little wandering in my review...but it is good, go get a copy, watch multiple times for full effect.

1 comment:

Beav said...

I am ashamed to say that I own it and still haven't seen it. But I will rent it as soon as I have a DVD player here. (I said I owned it, not that it's in the same hemisphere as I am.)