Sunday, April 03, 2011

Across the Universe

Across The Universe
2007 -- PG13
Director: Julie Taymor
Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson

 For my friends who know me well it comes as no surprise that I would write about Across the Universe, the 2007 film that is built upon and around the music of the Beatles, after all the Beatles are without a doubt the greatest rock band that ever was or ever will be. Okay, I know that's a very subjective statement to make but hey - it's my blog! What I would find to be an even bigger surprise (especially to me) is that I actually LOVE this film. A surprise because I am extremely picky when it comes to artists who cover these icons of rock and roll, it either has to be an absolutely dead on cover that sounds like the original OR the artist has to make it completely their own - neither of which is an easy thing to do. In fact my friend, musician Clay Howard is probably the only artist I've heard that can do the Beatles, even acoustic, and do it well. I've even dubbed him the "sixth" Beatle. (Beatle fans should understand why sixth and not fifth).
 So the other day I decided to pop Across the Universe into the DVD player for the purpose of studying it's screenplay structure but of course it didn't take long to just get lost up in this beautiful piece of art - in fact I forgot about studying it the moment Jim Sturgess's character Jude launches into "Girl" in the very first scene.
Across the Universe is a musical tale fabricated from the stories and characters created in the music of the Beatles. I'm not going to say much about the story line here (you'll have to rent the DVD) other than to say it is set against the backdrop of the turbulent, often violent 60's, the Vietnam war, hippies and the revolution America's youth was embroiled in at that time with the establishment.
 What I will say though is that each and every song is crafted and performed with an immensely powerful emotion that occasionally left me crying - yes crying. When Max (Joe Anderson) reports for his physical to determine his eligibility to be drafted into the Army the imagery that accompanies "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is staggering. Likewise the mental pain and anguish of post traumatic stress is more felt than heard when Max sings "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" in the Army medical ward. Bono (as Doctor Robert) and Joe Cocker (as a bum) both deliver exhilarating performances of "I Am The Walrus" and "Come Together" respectively but comedian Eddie Izzard's tripping performance as Mr. Kite is truly spectacular, a prime example of making a song your own as he speaks the song ("For the Benefit of Mr. Kite") rather than singing it.
 That Dana Fuchs as Sadie and Martin Luther as Jo-Jo appear to channel Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix is surely no coincidence. The performance by each is truly mind blowing.
 Many of the best and most popular Beatles songs are to be found here including "Let It Be," "Hey Jude," "Helter Skelter," "All You Need Is Love," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Strawberry Fields," "Something" and many more, all of which tell an integral part of the story that is Across the Universe - a movie that is far and away one of the best, if not the best neo-musical movie yet.

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