Peter Jackson Gives Us an Enticing Glimpse of His Upcoming Beatles Documentary The Beatles: Get Back

The leg­endary acri­mo­ny of the Bea­t­les’ break-up comes through in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 film Let it Be, which doc­u­ments the record­ing of their last stu­dio album and their famous rooftop send­off con­cert, joined by key­boardist Bil­ly Pre­ston. Things got so tense that George Har­ri­son left the band dur­ing the ses­sions. He lat­er called them “the low of all time.” Lennon went fur­ther: “hell… the most mis­er­able ses­sions on earth.”

Though some of the worst moments of those ses­sions were cut in edit­ing, there’s no doubt Lind­say-Hogg built the film around stu­dio dra­ma instead of “the monot­o­nies, the lack­lus­ter worka­day yawns, of four peo­ple who know each oth­er too well,” wrote Jonathan Cot and David Dal­ton in a 1970 Rolling Stone review. “We only get a few moments because with 300 hours of footage, only the high­lights, the more dra­mat­ic scenes, and the fun­nier dia­logue are shown.”

In the film, the band ends their last per­for­mance togeth­er with “Get Back,” then Lennon famous­ly jokes, “I hope we’ve passed the audi­tion.” Let it Be, Cott and Dal­ton revealed, was orig­i­nal­ly titled Get Back, the name Peter Jackson—yes that Peter Jackson—has cho­sen for his upcom­ing Bea­t­les film, which will final­ly see the light next year, after the COVID delays that have slowed down every pro­duc­tion.

Build­ing on the archival and restora­tion skills he refined dur­ing the mak­ing of They Shall Not Grow Old, Jack­son and his team have combed through those hun­dreds of hours of film, cut­ting togeth­er 56 hours of “nev­er-before-seen footage,” notes Bren­na Ehrlich at Rolling Stone. “The film promis­es to be ‘the ulti­mate ‘fly on the wall’ expe­ri­ence that Bea­t­les fans have long dreamt about,’” as Jack­son says. “We get to sit in the stu­dio watch­ing these four friends make great music togeth­er.”

The film will also “present a much sun­nier vision of the Bea­t­les’ breakup” and has been made with the full per­mis­sion of sur­viv­ing mem­bers Paul McCart­ney and Ringo Starr as well as Yoko Ono and George Harrison’s wife Olivia. As Starr put it, “There were hours and hours of us just laugh­ing and play­ing music, not at all like the ver­sion that came out. There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that. I think this ver­sion will be a lot more peace and lov­ing, like we real­ly were.”

As if to prove the point, McCart­ney, who just dropped his lat­est album, McCart­ney III, tweet­ed out the five-minute clip above yes­ter­day, in which Jack­son intro­duces what he calls a “mon­tage” from the film’s edit­ing process so far. The vivid life­like­ness of the images is a result of Jackson’s dig­i­tal pro­cess­ing, and it does not seem intru­sive. What stands out most of all is the joy the band clear­ly still took in each other’s com­pa­ny, “just laugh­ing and play­ing music,” as Ringo remem­bered. Get Back is slat­ed for release in the­aters on August, 2021.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

How Peter Jack­son Made His State-of-the-Art World War I Doc­u­men­tary, They Shall Not Grow Old: An Inside Look

Watch The Bea­t­les Per­form Their Famous Rooftop Con­cert: It Hap­pened 50 Years Ago Today (Jan­u­ary 30, 1969)

When the Bea­t­les Refused to Play Before Seg­re­gat­ed Audi­ences on Their First U.S. Tour (1964)

How “Straw­ber­ry Fields For­ev­er” Con­tains “the Cra­zi­est Edit” in Bea­t­les His­to­ry

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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