In one scene, only three of the four appear Beatles: Paul, George and Ringo. “Lennon will be late again,” says McCartney, somewhat uncomfortable, as he begins to improvise on the guitar. And at that moment something similar to magic happens: some loose chords that are taking shape little by little, the babbling of some still undefined lyrics. Ringo stares at him and begins to keep up with him. Harrison picks up his guitar and joins in too. At that John finally arrives – with Yoko at his side, as throughout the entire film – and engages in the rehearsal silently and naturally. Thus we begin to hear the recognizable sound of “Get Back”, the miraculous birth of one of the Beatles classics.
With moments like that, almost epiphanic, it is full of “The Beatles: Get Back”, a monumental film by Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”) that Disney + releases in three parts between today, tomorrow and Saturday. A documentary that focuses on the days of recording ―in January 1969― of “Let It Be”, an album that serves as the soundtrack for the end and farewell of the Liverpool band, and that, heard over the years, deserves a lot more than the harsh criticism it received at the beginning. A scandalously undervalued work within the beatle discography.
But let’s get back to the documentary itself, which portrays the band in the self-imposed challenge of recording an album and performing it live in less than a month. An 18-day follow-up of which a copious record remained, although until now hidden: 60 hours of video and 150 hours of audio that Peter Jackson was in charge of dusting, reviewing, restoring and assembling.
The task was not new for the New Zealand filmmaker. Let’s remember that in 2018 he released “They Shall Not Grow Old”, a documentary that rescued unpublished footage from the First World War, and corrected and colored them to breathe life into them 100 years after they were recorded. If in that movie Jackson resurrected the smiles and blood of anonymous soldiers, in “The Beatles: Get Back” he undertakes a similar process but with the four most famous musicians of his time. In a way, both films function as two sides of a coin: tragedy and glory, destruction and creation.
The truth is that the noble undertaking of recovering so much film archive suits Jackson quite well. In “The Beatles: Get Back” the colors vibrate and the footage looks clean. Everyday home recording is a must, but some beautifully filmed takes of songwriting sessions and the intimacy of the band are also on display. And, incidentally, certain myths about what happened in those days are dismantled.
Because although there are several tense moments – such as the five days when Harrison decided to leave the project and the dissolution of the band seemed to approach with danger – in reality what predominates in the group is the camaraderie, the naturalness of some celebrities in a safe space, the creative enjoyment that some of the best
pieces of rock history. How not to get excited, for example, seeing the Lennon-McCartney duo putting into practice their complicity worked with their eyes, with pure musical intuition, like two soul mates in a trance. No record known to date was ever so close to The Beatles.
And apart from the Fab Four, some secondary ones also stand out: Yoko Ono and her enigmatic presence, of which so much has been commented as a possible cause of the band’s separation. Filmmaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who in those days was directing the movie “Let It Be”, which would be released the following year (Peter Jackson has said that his is “a documentary about that documentary”). Or the effusive collaboration of Billy Porter, the so-called black beatle, who at just 22 years old was in charge of electronic keyboards and printed a key sound in songs like “Dig a Pony”, “I’ve Got a Feeling” or “ The Long and Winding Road ”.
The climax of the film comes in its third part, with the entire 42 minutes of the emblematic concert that The Beatles offered on the roof of Apple Studios, in London. Although that show is already well known, here it is shown like never before: through the registration of 10 different cameras, for which Peter Jackson uses the split screen, showing off his narrative ability to capture the frenzied deployment of the band, the surprise of the fans and pedestrians who passed by the place (not all happy) and even the desperation of a young policeman who does not know how to control the improvised rock performance. The confluence of these multiple perspectives has an immersive effect that makes it one of the highest points in the film.
The almost eight hours of “The Beatles: Get Back” (468 minutes, to be exact) leave Lindsay-Hogg’s “Let It Be” almost reduced to an anecdotal medium-length film and, it’s true, not very faithful to the atmosphere actually lived in. that January of 69. It is also true that this version directed by Jackson, for being ambitious and titanic, seems to have plenty of footage; but it is an excess that is worth swallowing for the magnitude of the rescue. For a Beatles fan it will never be too much; for a movie lover, either. On either shore, it should be seen as a historical, musical and cinematographic landmark. Impossible not to enjoy it.