Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"George Harrison: Living In the Material World" - Martin Scorsese (2011)

This may be the best rock biopic you will ever see about George Harrison. It shouldn’t surprise you as it was produced by Martin Scorsese and Olivia Harrison. It is filled with personal photos and film footage taken by Harrison and the other Beatles, and is narrated throughout by some of the people who knew and loved him the most.

That’s not to say that this is a marathon of celebrities stating how “Beatle George” affected, or influenced, them. Rather it is a film made by those closest to him, about him. Along the way Mr. Scorsese manages to extract the most telling interviews with George concerning fame, fortune and religion. Mr. Harrison’s take on religion was not so far removed from what he terms the concept of God being “a man in the sky”, which he originally rejected.

After delving into the sitar Mr. Harrison also embarked on a spiritual journey. He began in San Francisco, where he expected to see an enlightened community populated by people who had found some sort of inner peace. Instead he found sloth, rampant recreational use of LSD, and commercialism beyond belief. He promptly fled the scene after his famous walk through Golden Gate Park.

When he got to India he was lured into the Hindu teachings in a very simple way. He had always been taught, from birth, that you only needed to have Faith in God’s existence. But in India it was accepted that one cannot believe what he cannot see or feel for themselves. And, further, that this belief was valid.

His relationship with Ravi Shankar is explored and there is some film of George and Ravi weaving together on the sitar and guitar, melding the East and West into one. The film is so insightful and informative that you come away from it feeling as if you have met Mr. Harrison for the very first time; having misunderstood him for all these years.

Eric Clapton pays homage to not only his friend, but also to the creativity of the Beatles. He even tells the story of how he got to be on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and the anxiety he felt about performing with them.

Klaus Voorman and Astrid Kirchherr, the two German friends from Hamburg days, give their first impressions of meeting both the Beatles and George, and how that relationship affected them, as well as influenced their own artistry. Their descriptions of the friendship post Hamburg; including the LSD trip which led to John writing “I Am the Walrus”; make this film even better. Klaus went on to do the cover for the Beatles album “Revolver” and also became the bass player in the original Plastic Ono Band.

Yoko Ono weighs in with some delightfully unguarded comments about meeting George and how he perceived her as a fellow artist, rather than an enemy. George Martin is fatherly in his affection for Mr. Harrison, and Paul McCartney talks of their first meeting and how he convinced John to hear George play.When he performed “Raunchy”; atop a double decker Liverpool bus one night; he was in the group.

This film is a delightful treat. I am the type who usually gets up several times during a film, either to eat or stretch. This film had me in my chair for the entire first disc, which runs about 94 minutes. There is also a second disc with bonus features and performances which runs about 2 hours.

Whether or not you were ever a fan of the Beatles; or even George Harrison; you will not leave this film “empty handed.” This film will lift you up while also making you take a closer look at your own system of beliefs. Surprisingly; whether you are an atheist, a Christian, a Jew, or even a Buddhist; this film will touch you in a very personal way.  

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