Monday, October 24, 2011

George Harrison: Living in the Material World.

 "George himself is no mystery. But the mystery inside George is immense."
-John Lennon

Do not miss this film. 

I do wonder whether or not you have to be a fan to really appreciate Martin Scorsese's extensive re- telling of the life and times of George Harrison because I am and so are my housemates who I saw the film with and each of us were absolutely goddamn blown away by it. It really is the most satisfying, dense music documentary I've ever seen. 

Living In The Material World is an elegant and tenacious three-and-a-half hour examination that goes far beyond mere rock-doc hagiography and becomes a rich and absorbing personal odyssey, ultimately revealing itself as an epic, multi-layered love story – that of a man and his music, his famous bandmates, his many and varied friends, his women and, most significantly, his yearning to answer life's big questions.

More assembled than directed of course, Scorsese takes us through the highs and occasional lows of the man's life so perfectly that the near four-hour viewing time feels like it could go on forever ever and you (or I...) would still be rapt with attention. The film starts with a typically humorous, modest and elusive appearance by George seen between the flowers in his massive garden at Friar's Park, Harrison's incredible mansion. From there you are taken on a linear journey dwelling on most of the major events in his life. There was much archive photography and video footage which none of us had seen before (and we've looked!) and the interviewees were an amazing and essential part of the entire film. With key figures including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr (his stories are among the best) Tom Petty and Terry Gilliam, Scorsese sets out to cherish and rediscover that special something in Harrison's music and his gentle, self-deprecating, otherworldly personality. Part I covers Harrison's life up till the dissolution of The Beatles in 1970. Part II, which is, in many ways, the livelier and more revelatory section, traces Harrison's emergence as a solo artist and bookmarks the key historical moments: his rousing success with All Things Must Pass, pays tribute to Harrison as the inventor of the benefit gig with his 1971 Bangladesh concert, the Travelling Wilbury's and also as a film producer and backer of HandMade Films, and the man without whom Life of Brian and Withnail and I would not exist. The shock appearance of a now incarcerated Phil Spector, looking ridiculous in his "wig of the day" is controversial and prompted gales of laughter amongst most of the audience at Nova however he was actually surprisingly lucid. 

As we near the tenth anniversary of George's untimely death, which in itself is quite unbelievable, I believe that this film is the perfect telling of his unfashionable (and I don't mean in the clothing sense... he looks INCREDIBLE), unpretentious need for a spiritual purpose in his music and his life and suggests that alone in the Beatles, and perhaps alone in pop's premier league, Harrison, first and foremost was an authentic spiritual figure. Guitarist, follower, leader, student, teacher, songwriter, sitar player, multi-millionaire, mystic, gardener, race car enthusiast, film producer – George Harrison was all of these things and more, a true original in a band of true originals.  

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