Beatles in a Bell Jar: “Let It Be” (1970)


   Sitting through Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s “Let It Be” is not dissimilar to sitting behind someone in a theater and staring at the back of their head, mentally trying to make them turn around: it’s pointless, it doesn’t really work and, in the end, its a pretty much a waste of time. This film features recording sessions during which The Beatles perform material which would appear on their penultimate (though the last to be recorded) album “Abbey Road” and their final album release “Let It Be”, though from the evidence presented in the film- and that’s scant – it is unclear as to what the actual purpose of this filmed document is meant to serve. Originally conceived as a companion workplace documentary to coincide with a planned televised concert and corresponding album release which would return the foursome to its technologically unfettered musical roots, the eventual grand scheme collapsing under the weight of collective indecision and growing personal animosities. The footage comprising “Let It Be” is, therefore, merely cobbled together material from an abandoned project, but retains the possibility of significant historical significance since in the intervening time between the filming and the film’s release saw the release of both “Abbey Road” and the “Let It Be” albums, but more significantly, the break-up of The Beatles as a group. Certainly, with reportedly hundreds of hours of footage shot, even the most rudimentary of documentarians would manage to capture- under the dispassionate but observant eye of the film’s cinéma vérité technique -the creative mind in flux.  If it is meant as a inside look into the creative process, it is apparent that the compositional work and major musical discussions had already taken place outside the range of the cameras, and if the filmed performances were meant to represent a companion to the vinyl recording, why not include the contributions of the record producer Phil Spector, whose eventual “Wall of Sound” irretrievably altered the resulting album’s sound? If the film is meant as a document to witness the end of the major cultural phenomenon that was the group, where are any direct commentaries or confrontations related to such a fracture included in the film- beyond the incessant moping -that would justify the film’s very existence? It is rumored that such strained footage indeed exists, but was excised at the insistence of the musicians, which leads to the inevitable conclusion that “Let It Be” is not a documentary in the truest sense, but merely a promotional film gone astray. Whatever the explanation, there is no denying that the film has an feel of being carelessly unfinished. even the finale is abrupt, which may be due to unpredictable intrusion from local bobbies, however, there is no visible attempt at any sort of summing up.

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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in 1970's movies, Culture, Documentaries, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, movie reviews, Movies, music, Reviews, The Beatles and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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