Noted People

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The Beatles Anthology

Film Review by Dean Duncan Apr 10, 2015

That’s a ton-of-a-lot of Beatles material! And what a treasure trove! You sense that those responsible could have doubled the length of this massive thing, what with the ridiculous amount of documentation that they’ve got archived. The following might not go for everybody. It goes for me, though: you further sense that you would have been grateful to sit through every bit of it.

What might that have been like? Double the cool performances, double the delightful stock footage, the vivid personalities, the deep, resonant hilarities. These lads weren’t just funny, buy they were positively joyful. This is very important, far more than mere entertainment or disposable popular culture. Coursing beneath the Beatles’ joyful wit was a deep intelligence, emanating not only from each individual band member, but from Youth, the North, the Working and Merchant Classes. Not for the first time, but what an effusion! You bet that the Beatles were a big deal!

A longer assembly would also have doubled these simultaneously revealing and obfuscating mid-90’s interviews. Doubled the complexity, and certainly the darkness as well. A lot of that is lurking at the margins, even without Lennon’s absence and all that it portends. Joyful? Only in part, it would seem. At eight hours, you definitely get the broad view, and the complex picture. Those poor young men! Talk about the catastrophe of success!

I am using a lot of exclamation marks around here.

That dire stuff is there, but it’s not pursued, explored overly, or much penetrated. This subject is too important and wonderful to be a vanity production, but a sense of institutional approval lies heavy. If The Beatles Anthology is not quite a whitewash, it’s pretty darned polite!

It’s not a lie though. Eight hours is still plenty of time to see, see into, occasionally see through people. It’s clear, and they admit it, that they’re far from perfect. (Or might George have been?) It’s clear that the volcanic, almost elemental John Lennon could be positively dangerous. That the miraculously melodic McCartney might also have been, shall we say, a challenge to work with. But for all that, aren’t these flawed individuals wonderful? And that music! And the feelings that flood at the end, as they discuss that decades-ago break up—of course they should have!—and then summarize the meaning of it all. Is this too obvious? But why resist it! And in the end—cue remastered music—the love you take is equal to the love you make.