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.