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All Together Now (2008)

by on 2010/05/17

We all carry our own unique Beatles baggage.  Beyond the music, beyond the tales of the band itself, and beyond their artistic and historical context, there will always be individual associations . . . what the Beatles meant to our parents, how they influence our relationships, and even the connections they might provide with our own children.

At one point in the documentary, All Together Now, participants try to divine why the Beatles’ music is so open to interpretation, with specific reference to remixing.  The speakers seem hesitant, as if fearful to suggest the songs’ parts are interchangeable and, by implication, unremarkable.  At the risk of disputing the gurus, it seems to me their theories miss the point.  The Beatles’ work is rarely unremarkable.  We forget their innovations too easily.  The recombination of their music, when technically possible, feels oddly natural or, more precisely, naturally odd.  We already expect them to surprise us.  Their capacity for creative juxtaposition is a matter of record, after all, not opinion.

Well here is another fruitful collision.  All Together Now chronicles the evolution of the Las Vegas show called Love, a theatrical collaboration between the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil.  Distilled from many months’ worth of footage, the documentary touches on:  the genesis of the project by George Harrison and his friend, Guy Laliberte; the process of selecting, rearranging, and remixing the Beatles’ repertoire; developing and rehearsing a variety of physical performances based on their music; and refining the final show based on various creative and technical concerns.

I’ve had some difficulty reviewing this piece objectively.  Early on in watching, I took note of both aspects I admired (the dread the surviving Beatles and their widows instilled in the Cirque performers) and those which disappointed me (the shallow and brief handling of audio production).  As the story progressed, however, my senses of time and critical focus dissipated, until the whole coalesced into something more than the sum of its parts.

Minutiae slipped away, unmissed, enshrouded by other wonderings.  How might George Martin feel about losing his hearing, or outliving his young charges?  How do Yoko and Olivia fight for the integrity of songs their husbands wrote for other women?  How did Paul feel as the only lone attendee of a performance inspired by love?  How heavy does the Beatles’ legacy weigh on their various offspring?  Despite such unanswered questions, I felt satisfied all the same.

According to their friend and associate, the late Neil Aspinall, the Beatles’ work (which, I assume, includes this film itself) has always been subject to a convention of reverse democracy:  any one of them can veto material in dispute.  Considering such a rule, either the completion of anything is unlikely, or excellence is inevitable.  (You may counter that “mediocrity is inevitable” but we are talking about the Beatles.)  In this case, the result is a remarkably candid movie that entertains, educates, and has even led me to rethink some long-held assumptions.  I suspect future viewings will reveal even more.

* * * * *


125 minutes

  1. grushenkageusebach permalink

    I begrudgingly admit your review about that movie about that sideshow showcasing THAT BAND is rather excellent (damn you …I mean, good for you).

    I respect your brains and your looks.

    My baggage is a Pods-brand moving storage unit to your carry-on-friendly duffel bag.

    Your comments are apt. APT.

    Now let’s never speak of THAT BAND again.

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