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Old Sep 19, 2011, 02:59 PM   #1
Hari's Chick
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Default George Harrison: Living In The Material World

George Harrison: Living In The Material World
19 September, 2011 | By Fionnuala Halligan

Dir: Martin Scorsese. US. 2011. 208mins

A compelling portrait of a man who may always remain essentially elusive, Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living In The Material World is a tenderhearted and revelatory look at “the quiet Beatle”. Neither a hagiography nor a full warts-and-all expose, it gently and insistently probes the essence of Harrison and despite its lengthy running time is an engrossing and ultimately joyous insight into his life and times.

Harrison himself is a large and warm presence through a jaw-dropping array of archive footage and gorgeous still photography.
Viewing the Beatles through the less divisive figure of Harrison, Scorsese casts an unexpectedly sharp light on the band and its dynamic. While the director makes no concessions to those who aren’t familiar with the group, particularly in the documentary’s early stages, this should be of interest to a much wider audience than the Beatles’ ageing fanbase.

Its natural home may be TV (it will air on HBO in US in October) but hopefully select theatrical engagements will prevail, with an interval at the 91-minute mark.

Produced by Scorsese with Harrison’s widow, Olivia, this documentary doesn’t quite skirt over the musician’s darker side, yet neither does it pick at the underbelly. Harrison was evidently a greatly loved man, yet contributors including Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono and Ringo Starr, amongst others, consistently refer to his two sides (Starr memorably referring to a “bag of beads and a bag of anger”).

A drug problem is alluded to briefly, and the fact he was outspoken and a womaniser are also underlined. This can be frustrating - at Scorsese’s behest the viewer is trying to know this man, and it feels as if the curtains are closing. But, overall, this gentle approach somehow chimes with the man everyone on screen is describing.

Another potential issue is that there’s a generous helping of Ravi Shankar, but that’s what Beatles fans said back in the 1970s so why should it be any different here.

Harrison’s constant, restless quest for self-enlightenment drove him and provides the impetuous for this documentary, which sits alongside - but is much more captivating than - Scorsese’s Bob Dylan biopic, No Direction Home, as opposed to Shine A Light or The Last Waltz. (“People say I’m the Beatle who changed the most,” he says in an archive interview. “But to me that’s what life is all about.”)

Scorsese opts not to appear on camera here, and does not question the interviewees, who also include Harrison’s first wife Patti Boyd, (who memorably left him for Clapton), his son Dhani, Ray Cooper of HandMade Films and Eric Idle.

Harrison himself is a large and warm presence through a jaw-dropping array of archive footage and gorgeous still photography. (He’s shown to be sharp-witted and sardonic, greeting McCartney in later years with “is that a vegetarian leather jacket?”)

Scorsese breaks the film into easily-digestible chunks, with emotional strands weaving the whole piece together; there’s a quick run through Harrison’s childhood; the Beatles years; his songwriting; quest for enlightenment and spirituality through India and beyond; solo success; the Bangladeshi aid concert; the Travelling Wilburys; HandMade; and at home in Henley, where he fought cancer and was brutally stabbed by an intruder.

Despite Harrison’s many, many notable achievements (mortgaging his house to make The Life Of Brian being only one of them), it’s The Beatles which underline the film, of course. And there’s a strong suspicion that with two members of the band dead, this may prove to be the most insightful documentary ever made about the group dynamic, even though it never tackles the world’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon head-on.
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Old Sep 19, 2011, 03:03 PM   #2
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I think it's so much more valuable to have "the dark and the light" shown in the film. I think that is a huge reason so many people love George. If he was all proper and saintly, very few people could relate to him.

It's like I said before, even the saints are typecast as boring people, when many had very colorful lives! :)

The fact George was so dynamic and multifaceted AND mostly a gentle guy... says so much good about him.

I love the remark about Paul's jacket!
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Old Sep 19, 2011, 03:50 PM   #3
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Yeah, everybody has a yin and a yang, a balance. People are more complex than being just defined as being one or the other - there are overlapping tones of gray. It's just part of the human condition.
With a love like that, you know you should be glad, yeah, yeah, yeah!-- Beatles, 1963

If I seem to act unkind, it's only me, it's not my mind. -- George Harrison, 1966
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Old Sep 19, 2011, 07:33 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Hari's Chick View Post
I love the remark about Paul's jacket!
That was priceless!
"the love you take, is equal to the love you make"

~ Nancy ~
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Old Sep 19, 2011, 07:50 PM   #5
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Ringo's quote is kind of startling, (bag of beads, bag of anger)but probably very true; Ringo knew George possibly better than the others, and as far as I know, never really had a falling out period with him as he did with John and Paul. But it is true that in so many photos of George from 1967-68 or so on, his eyes look so unhappy and/or angry. He was going through so much in his personal oddessy and couldn't seem to relate to anything unconnected to his spirtual quest; he has said as much. He was still very young and later on seemed to be able to be more accepting of the fact that most people are never going to live up to your hopes or expectations, or share your passions to the same degree.

On another note, I am reminded of one day as John was entering Apple, he saw a Hare Krishna man outside who was not being let in, he took him and said "You must be one of George's" and brought him inside. Indeed, he was George's friend there to record with George. I don't know why I just thought of that...
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