Thursday, August 30, 2007

across the universe

Okay, nothing much to do with holiness here, unless you count the spirit of saints John, Paul, George and Ringo. But what a trip, man! Directed by auteur Julie Taymor, it’s a sixties love story, basically a big screen musical with Beatle-named characters (named Jude, Lucy, Max, Sadie, JoJo, Mr Kite, Bono as Doctor Robert, etc, etc) singing Fab Four tunes in a swirl of truly mind-altering visuals: for a taste, check out the trailer - especially around the two minute mark, when “Hey Jude” gears up.

This from a woman who saw an early test screening;
...Taymor's vision as a director seems to borrow from everything. ... There is what looks like Jan Svankmajer in a stunning industrial dance scene in a draft board as civilians are turned into soldiers. Another scene has giant puppet pageantry straight out of Peter Schumman's Bread and Puppet Theater and Resurrection Circus. One scene is a dreamlike vision done entirely in the psychedelic solarised colors of Richard Avedon's Beatle portraits. Her set designs are at times so clever and colorful, you laugh at the unrestrained joy and daring.
She begins with a glorious reinvention of the fifties musical, and careens into pure psychedelic delirium. The cinematography is rich and varied to the purpose of each scene, and dance sequences explode into place. The film moves from the innocence of small town upper-middle class America, to the nascent hippy scene in the village, to a sort of hallucinatory Garden of Eden (with too much but amusing Bono as a Ken Kesey Merry Prankster guru type). It moves to romance, and onto the dangers and volatility of the anti war 60's. All this is rendered through a constant flow Beatles songs delivered amidst magnificent set designs and video composites.... A ballad version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" movingly reinvents the song. ... At times songs and sounds collide like the Beatles in "Number Nine". The collision of a war protest at Columbia University with Helter Skelter over Dear Prudence is brilliant. Taymor has edginess that matches the sixties zeitgeist, and avoids the vacuous cotton candy fluff of Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge".

Julie Taymor created THE LION KING for the stage - absolutely inspired. And FRIDA, which is terrific, particularly the crazy visual sequences that reference Frida Kahlo's artword. Increasingly I think TITUS may be the best - or certainly, the most cinematic - film treatment of Shakespeare, an unapologetic full-on commitment to every idea, grand or weird or questionable, Bill put into his flawed, off-kilter original.

I'll confess, I could have used a bit more of the darkness at the heart of TITUS - if Julie Taymor tkes us to Viet Nam, I was hopeing for something that would take us past the familiar images of helicopters and panicky fire-fights - but hey, I'm in love with this movie! So I don't care to quibble. A big screen musical that makes choreography out of football practise, that saturated with winsome performances and well-sung songs from the Fabs, that's pressing all my buttons! Quite apart from the fact that I've collected (blush) over 1,000 cover versions of Beatles songs, and Taymor and nostalgia and all, there's this...


Peter T Chattaway said...

That's funny -- I was waiting to hear back from the publicist re: whether it would be possible for *me* to bring you along to the screening. I guess that's taken care of, then!

Ron Reed said...

Hey, thanks for thinking of me, Peter! Maybe the three of us should have coffee after and, like, rap, man. Wanna?


Peter T Chattaway said...