Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
I caught the last screening of Across the Universe
last night with Tseri in Glorietta. It's an odd movie. I certainly liked some parts better than others; there were lots of powerful imagery and the arrangements of the songs were quite imaginative. I thought that the storytelling could have been tighter, the visuals and the choreography more consistent, and the storyline more epic. The movie felt like a bunch of loosely-related music videos, and some of them were good.
I did enjoy myself though, but that's not a hard proposition given that you're basically listening to Beatles music for a couple of hours. The experience was a bit weird though, because you sit there and you know all the lyrics and yet, you can't sing along like you would during Beatles night at 70s Bistro, lest you end up looking like those dorks who go to the theater and sing along loudly to the movie version of Rent
What I found contrived was the '60s setting of the movie. I just felt that it was a little lazy, the use of The Beatles as shorthand for the decade. It reminds me of a piece from Nick Hornby that I wrote about previously
, where he was arguing for the songwriting merits of Ben Folds. In the latter part of the essay, he rued the fact that the craftsmanship that goes into writing songs as good as Folds's "Smoke" is never appreciated, because his songs are just songs, and they're not meant to change the world. He explains further:
The Beatles had a context, too, but they seem to have inhaled that along with everything else: they have hoovered up and become the sixties, and everything that happened in that extraordinary decade somehow belongs to them now. Their songs have therefore become imbued with all sorts of magic that doesn't properly belong to them, and we can't see the songs as songs anymore.
Hornby isn't a Beatles detractor. In fact, in one of the few moments from the book High Fidelity
that wasn't in the movie, his hero Rob Fleming explains his relationship with the Beatles, and how it's his go-to music every time he's depressed over the last girl he's pining for:
"...I'll be playing the Beatles when I get home. Abbey Road, probably, although I'll program the CD to skip over "Something." The Beatles were bubblegum cards and Help at the Saturday morning cinema and toy plastic guitars and singing "Yellow Submarine" at the top of my voice in the back row of the coach on school trips. They belong to me, not to me and Laura, or me and Charlie, or me and Alison Ashworth, and though they'll make me feel something, they won't make me feel bad.
As a whole, the movie felt lacking, and there just wasn't enough magic. It could have been much grander. The Fab Four's music has inspired much better fiction (Haruki Murakami's seminal novel, Norwegian Wood
, comes to mind). Across the Universe
was alright, but it didn't make you fall in love, or break your heart gently, or inspire you to take on the rest of the world, or give you a quiet sense of comfort-- at least not the way those Beatles records did.
Labels: beatles, movies, music