In much the same way David Lynch gave us way more Twin Peaks than we’d ever hoped for in 2017, Peter Jackson and the Beatles are giving us nothing like the little seen and quickly shelved Let It Be documentary from 1970, but a full six hours of the final musical works of the Beatles. Premiering on Disney Plus (yes, I know, you gotta pay money to the Mouse) over three days after Thanksgiving, this six-hour series is the big one fans of the various remasters, repackages, and remixes have been waiting for.
The Get Back sessions have long been a sour note in a career that was mostly joyous. Appearing over and over again in bootleg form, the various jam sessions, cover versions, and rehearsals through the songs that would turn up on Abbey Road and Let It Be can be grim listening. (I know, I’ve listened to a lot of it. The Beatles practicing is just as tedious as any other band working through songs.) The general narrative is that the acrimony among the band members, the wraith-like presence of Yoko Ono, and Paul’s relentlessly upbeat badgering of everybody else caused the world’s most famous band to break up. Abandoning the project, they performed some of the songs on a Saville Row rooftop, and the rest was left up to the lawyers (and Phil Spector) to sort out.
Jackson’s Get Back, made with the blessings of the surviving Beatles, intends to upend that narrative.
“The thing is, when the film was released, The Beatles were breaking up, but they weren’t breaking up when they were making Let It Be, which was recorded a year earlier,” Jackson told GQ Magazine. “So I suppose it would have been odd to release a film where they are all enjoying each other’s company.”
The acrimony only set in later, when Allen Klein became their manager, he added.
This is Beatles as a family, and families argue, joke about, and get down to family business.
Honing the techniques Jackson used to bring to life old World War I footage in They Shall Not Grow Old, the film takes the 57 hours of footage shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg and makes it look like it was shot yesterday. The colors you see in the trailer, however, have not been altered. “I mean, it does make you jealous of the 1960s, because the clothing is so fantastic,” Jackson said.
The album Let It Be always had the shadow of a bad breakup over it, but for newer generations, that may no longer be the case after this documentary drops next month.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.