The Beatles’ Get Back! Premiered on Disney+ over Thanksgiving weekend. The original film, “Let it Be,” was filmed by the world’s best-selling band across several weeks in January of 1969 by documentarian Micheal Lindsay Hogg.
Lord of The Beatles
The new Peter Jackson film, Get Back was culled from over 60 hours of raw video footage and 150 hours of audio, both from that session. All this material was edited down to a running time of 468 minutes by the award-winning director and his New Zealand-based technical team. They created a three-part mini-series providing much for Beatle fanatics and music fans to digest. Technically, the movie belies its former grainy and blandly-colored 16mm film pedigree. Jackson upscaled the film using the same process applied to 2019’s World War 1 documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old.” The result is stunning, as 2021’s Get Back looks vibrant, fresh, and contemporary. The viewer is immediately immersed in the fab four’s intimately chronicled songwriting process since the lads were using “creating and performing new songs” as the point of the documentary. Part of the 1970 release of Let it Be and 2021’s Get Back contains what ended up being their last live public performance – the infamous rooftop concert. But really, that is the only thing they have in common.
Pent-Up Fan Demand
The Beatles reportedly hated that original film and the accompanying album produced by rock and roll hall of fame member Phil Spector. The band’s ire was so unified toward the film and album that “Let it Be” was never released on DVD and could only be found on garage-sale-bought VHS tapes (and illegal streams created from them). The soundtrack album was similarly vilified and given a full-throttled workover with their “Let it Be – Naked,” released in 2003. The film Let it Be, even for serious Beatle fans, was always an unsatisfying curiosity; the rooftop concert was fantastic, but the rest of the film was a complete mess. With the hint of a cache of unseen Beatle footage, fans wondered, “Where is the Let it Be Redux?” When Jackson’s name started being leaked to the world as one interested in pulling this project together, excitement for a new Let it Be escalated. Jackson, whose Lord of the Rings trilogy is as beloved as any film series ever made, seemed like the right guy to do this. When Apple Records announced an official film with the full blessing of the remaining Beatles directed by Jackson was coming, excitement ensued. Get Back is finally here after four years and a last-minute pivot from a two-hour theatrical film to 468-minute Disney+ series later. The consensus is Jackson’s Get Back is worth the wait, righting almost all the criticisms from the original Let it Be. While the series is long, a tad repetitive, and not for everyone, Get Back is remarkable in capturing the Beatles near their heyday, with a level of intimacy not typically seen in music documentaries. Many music writers have echoed the comment, “Hard to believe this footage exists!”
While some initial mugging and playing to the camera, Get Back plays most like cinema verite, capturing candid moments with the band, their immediate business and music teams, and the filmmakers unnoticed. Witnessing the Beatles in 1969 creating songs out of thin air like “Get Back” has never been seen before, and it is fascinating. Even more riveting is how they collaborate to bring Get Back to a finished product. Together for nearly a decade at the documentary’s filming, the Beatles had achieved a level of success never seen before or since in music. So as we watch them collaborate, creating the classic Beatles songs Get Back, Don’t Bring Me Down, The Long and Winding Road, and Let it Be, we are watching a well-oiled collaborative music-making machine arguably unlike any other. The film also reveals a process we mortals can learn from collaborating. More on that in Get Back – Part Two