Monday, 17 February 2014

“Across The Universe”. A Review Of The 2007 Film on BLU RAY.

Here is the link to Amazon UK to buy this BLU RAY at the best price:

"…Is Anyone Going To Listen To My Story…"

Messing with an icon like The Beatles song catalogue is like doing a whoopsie on the Crown Jewels – probably not a smart move – but fun and imaginative nonetheless. And that's why I love the inventive and brave "Across The Universe" - a film that seems to elicit derision and ecstasy in equal measures. The spirit of The Beatles as a group and as individuals was always to move forward – experiment – expand your horizons – and this 2007 movie is extraordinary for doing just that in such a fresh and challenging way.

Director Julie Taymor and Music Production Supervisor Elliot Goldenthal take 33 Lennon and McCartney classics and along with legendary British TV writers Ian Le Frenais and Dick Clement weave them into a story about a poor Liverpudlian dock-worker/artist (Jim Sturgess playing Jude) seeking his absent wartime American father in the USA. There he meets the handsome, well-healed and slightly crazy Max (Joe Anderson) and his preppy American sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Woods) who is waiting for her boyfriend to return from a war far, far away. And on their story goes as the two culturally different types passionately fall in love with each other (much like the USA did with The Beatles and Britain).

The movie is not surprisingly set during the height of the Sixties American Protest movement - Corporate greed, Vietnam and the Draft, racial inequality, freedom from the straight-jackets of parents and old ways are all grist for the “All You Need Is Love” theme that permeates throughout. And it gels more times than it doesn’t because a huge amount of work and imagination went into the making of this movie – choreography, locations, the lyrics craftily woven into the narrative… But most of all it’s the radical restructuring of The Beatles songs that impresses most (and who sings them and how).

The boys get drunk and lark about on the lawns of Princeton University to "With A Little Help From My Friends", a black child sings an Acapella "Let It Be" by a burnt-out car wreck as rioting goes on in the city streets all around him which then segues into a choir crying as they sing the hymnal song at his funeral – a black guitarist called JoJo (Hendrix) arrives in New York off the bus and is greeted by Joe Cocker dressed as a subway bum/pimp doing "Come Together" while U2's Bono turns up as an acid-totting preacher singing "I Am The Walrus" as he exits a psychedelic bus. Jude befriends the reckless Max (brother of Lucy) and they both thumb-it to the Village Scene of New York where Sexy Sadie is their landlady (a great turn by singer Joan Osborne). The Polynesian Prudence (who is a lesbian) literally comes in through her bathroom window while Max later has to enlist in the army to a truly menacing rendition of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" where the draft poster literally comes alive. These are just some of the inspired moments - but there are so many more. Better still however is both Evan Rachel Woods and Jim Sturgess producing aching vocals on radically slowed down mop-top tunes like "Girl" and "If I Fell" that suddenly feel tender in a way they never did before.

It helps that English actor Jim Sturgess is a dead ringer for Macca and has a great accent and voice – but the problems arise when too many of the set scenes feel a bit forced no matter how inventive the visuals.

The Blu Ray picture is defaulted to 2:40.1 (lines top and bottom) but even stretched to 16 x 9 full screen still looks ravishing. There’s 5.1 True HD audio and Subtitles are in Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, English for the hard of hearing, English, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Polish, Romanian, Slovene and Turkish. The extras are impressive too:

1. Extended Musical Performances
2. Deleted Scene
3. Commentary with Director Julie Taymor and Music Production Composer Elliot Goldenthal
4. Five Behind The Scenes Featurettes and More
5. Don Mace Art Gallery Featuring Drawings From The Film

 As you can imagine there will be thespians and scholars with their noses right out of joint over "Across The Universe" – I say knob to that. I loved it. Fresh, original and yet warm and deeply respectful to music and people who have literally weaved their way into our DNA - this is a movie and subject matter you mustn’t get precious about. Taymor and Co. went for it and I’m sure John Lennon would be smiling right now at the fact that they did so with such panache and balls…

And in the end – and in the words of the brillo Fabs - isn’t love all that you need…

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