Director Ron Howard steps away from his usually drama projects to deliver a documentary that provides a fascinating behind the scenes look at The Beatles. Few musical groups have been featured so prominently in films, books and television, so Howard’s ability to unearth unknown facts about the Liverpool lads is quite engaging.
In the early years, The Beatles cut their teeth playing an insane number of live gigs (highlighted by their time in Germany) but once they became known worldwide, did not play live that often. Eventually they stopped playing live altogether and became a studio only band. This was before the reform to play benefits industry caught on, so even that didn’t bring them back together again.
Howard’s film focuses on their last great flurry of live gigs and liberally uses live footage from that period (cleaned up to a pristine standard) as well as recent interviews with both Paul, Ringo and others. The camaraderie of the four mop tops comes through with great effect and it looks like they did a pretty good job of dealing with the immense interest in their every utterance.
Of special note during the film’s current theatrical run is the screening of the complete Shea Stadium concert as a coda to the film and this is not to be missed. It shows just how crazy the crowds actually were and how engaging the band was on stage (especially John Lennon’s sense of absurdist humour). The filmmakers have done an amazing job of restoration and the sound and vision is outstanding. Catch the film now during it very limited run.