Peter Jackson and Disney bring Beatles documentary back from oblivion – Technologist


Let It Be had been wandering in limbo for over half a century. After being released on VHS in the early 1980s, Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s January 1969 documentary was buried by the surviving Beatles and their heirs, who considered it an unbearable record of the quartet’s last days.

On May 8, Disney re-released a restored version of the film, after producing and releasing, in 2021, Get Back, a seven-hour documentary series edited by Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame) from the Lindsay-Hogg footage. Even if you’ve spent an entire night immersed in Jackson’s work, watching the original Let It Be is still full of lessons to be learned. Where the New Zealand filmmaker set out to present the totality of a moment, highlighting the band’s formidable musical creativity at the same time as its decomposition, peeling it back and showing every organ of this four-headed monster, his British colleague and elder had fashioned a funerary stele in memory of the Beatles.

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The 80 minutes of Let It Be are filled with music, including songs that can be heard on the album of the same name, rock’n’roll standards improvised with pianist and organist Billy Preston, and sketches of tracks that would end up on the group’s final album, Abbey Road. As soon as the film was released in May 1970, a few months before The Beatles’ breakup became official, it was criticized for its infinite sadness.

Mission impossible

Between songs, Paul McCartney and George Harrison can be heard arguing. From time to time, Lindsay-Hogg inserts shots of Yoko Ono dressed in black, silent, at the side of her companion, John Lennon. And when McCartney tries to strike up a conversation with his teenage friend, he remains silent. His nasal voice is only heard for a pun or a sarcastic remark.

Now that we’ve seen Get Back, we know that Ono and Linda McCartney used to talk to each other (in hushed tones, during the recording of “Let It Be”, the song), that Harrison remained besotted with his fellow bassist, as we see in the marvelous sequence of Get Back‘s creation. Lindsay-Hogg, an undoubtedly limited director (his greatest claim to fame, before being entrusted with the impossible mission of Let It Be, was directing the Rolling Stones and their guests in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968)), folded this complexity into the format of a rather brief feature-length film, telling a story where Jackson, 50 years later, had the opportunity to offer viewers the elements to write their own story.

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