9 October 2016

I Saw A Film Today, Oh Boy!

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For the sake of context, I feel it might be worth mentioning that I live in a place called The Wirral which is directly opposite Liverpool. I'm close enough that I can get away with taking the piss out of them, but far enough away that I'm thankfully not actually one of them. Essentially, Wirral is perfectly located to keep an eye on whatever trouble the scousers might be getting up to, but with the river Mersey keeping us just far enough apart for the sake of 'Health and Safety'. People always associate the River Mersey with Liverpool but it's actually just as much ours as it is theirs. You've heard of the Mersey Ferry I'm guessing? Well, that'll pretty much take you straight to us like the last chopper out of Saigon. So basically, I've lived my life having to constantly hear our neighbouring Liverpudlians screaming about The fucking Beatles from over the river but without actually coming from the same place as them to give that much of a shit. I mean, I like The Beatles, don't get me wrong, but you know what Liverpool is like. If a scouser won a line of Bingo when he was on holiday he'd be championed back as a local fucking hero.

Anyway, so I wandered on down to the cinema the other day to see Ron Howard's latest documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years. Which, for the record, has to be the most annoyingly long title since Borat indulged in some cultural learnings to make benefit his glorious nation of Kazakhstan. Before going in, I'd say that my knowledge of The Beatles was slightly above average, but I'd be lying if I said that I was an expert in any shape or form. As the title suggests, this movie focuses only on the years that the band bothered to tour which lasted from 1962 to 1966. As such, we don't even touch upon what happened to any of the band members once the group had split which is a shame because we all know how great they continued to be. To summarise for those who aren't aware, one produced some of the greatest British films of all time, one got murdered, one narrated Thomas the fucking Tank Engine, and one went on to form Wings, which as Alan Partridge famously declared, “was only the band that The Beatles could have been!”

The problem with Ron Howard's films in general is that they always feel like they're made for people who know fuck all about the subject they're dealing with. So Frost/Nixon was a really fun film and if you didn't know anything about the subject then I'm sure you'd think that it was fucking fantastic. But for anybody that's clued into whatever his current movie is about, then I always get the feeling that the majority of the pleasure will be in simply spending time with something that you have an interest in. Like a child being told one of their favourite bed time stories for the millionth time. Which isn't to say that I'm not a fan of his, of course. Howard might not be the most insightful of directors when it comes to getting to the centre of an issue, but he's still a damn fine narrator. As such, this Beatles documentary feels exactly the same as everything else he's done. If you're obsessed with the Fab Four then I doubt there'll be anything in this that you're unaware of. Which isn't to say it isn't worth watching. It's well put together, I'm sure an uber-fan would still appreciate watching their obsession for two hours, and there's no doubt that the soundtrack is pretty fucking good I suppose.

Plus, as mentioned, I'm not a Beatles expert, and so there were certain things that I found more than enlightening. One of which being that the band had it written in their contract that they'd refuse to play to any crowd that featured a segregated audience. Considering the shit that was going down in America regarding race back then, this seems like a pretty admirable and ballsy thing to do. It's also odd to see them all as the kids that they were. For me 'The Beatles' is just a tourettes like scream that I hear in between the grating white-noise of the scouse accent. However here we're not only reminded that they were people, but they were actual real people like the rest of us. Just four normal lads thrown into this shit storm of revolutionary music, the pressure of fame, and demented, screaming fans. I suppose the only problem here is that as usual with a Howard film, we don't really get any insight of what they were really like. I mean I'm pretty sure that John Lennon used to knock his wife about and put at least one person in hospital from having kicked the shit out of them. However none of this comes up at all in favour of just showing how they'd banter with the press. I used to wonder why The Beatles were always announced as “Liverpool's own The Beatles”. But as I began to realise that this documentary was a bit of a puff piece, it seemed to me that, that the announcement was probably less of a pride thing and actually more of a fucking warning.

As the film then goes on to show what it must have been like for the band during this time, it obviously has to therefore deal with the people that liked them and, fuck me- they were something to behold. It sounds good to imagine that tens of thousands of young girls would be screaming your name but you should honestly see them. You can almost imagine a reporter asking the band “What are the adoring young girls like?”, with a pretty honest answer being, “They're like their own fucking grandparents”. I mean it's like kids in those days went straight from puberty to middle-age. At least one young lady featured here must have only been about sixteen but she looked like an old woman in a fucking Woody Allen movie. Apparently girls in the 1960's all dressed like Velma from Scooby Doo too but only if she'd gotten a job as a secretary. When it cut to the screaming crowd I wasn't sure if they were watching The Beatles or if Ron Howard had randomly intercut the reaction shots from a fire at the typewriter factory. Later on there's a talking head with a reporter who claims to have seen the band stoned off their tits and smoking weed. Err- do you think? Obviously they were. Imagine being smashed off your heads and seeing that crowd of cardigans waving back at you? It must have been like a giant, knitted fucking lava lamp!

However, the audience I was seeing this film with all seemed to enjoy it and most of us stayed for the bonus half-hour concert included after the credits. So presumably the hardcore people watching enjoyed themselves and the semi-interested people like myself enjoyed it too. But what if you'd hated The Beatles? Would this convert you? Well, I took a friend with me who only attended because the screen was sold out and he found the idea of somebody that hates the Beatles getting a seat over a fan mildly amusing. Like I say, we hear about The Beatles a lot where we live. Well, after the film ended and we were still surrounded by the packed room of fans, I asked if he'd enjoyed it. “I'm not going to answer that in here”, he replied, “I might get fucking lynched”. So oh well. As fun as the movie was I guess you still can't please everyone. In fact, other that the sugar-coating of how nice the band were and the lack of depth in exploring the subject, my only criticism would be that throughout the movie there was one other person sat close to me who felt the need to sing along with all the songs she knew. As though we'd all previously thought, “You know.. those Beatles are pretty good. But if only there was one extra female member wailing slightly out of tune then I think they'd be fucking perfect”. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.  

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