In the Picture

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Rated M

In no way should Living in the Material World be considered as just a film for Beatles tragics, not with the masterful touch of director Martin Scorsese. The director of many great dramas has also made three brilliant music documentaries, the 2005 Dylan doco No Way Home: Bob Dylan, Shine a Light on the Rolling Stones and one of the best concert films ever, The Band's The Last Waltz.

Following the death of George Harrison in 2001 several production companies approached his widow Olivia wanting to make a film about George's life. But it was not until she saw Scorsese's Dylan doco that she gave her blessing and the family's extensive video archives to the director.

As the youngest of the Fab Four George was often referred to as 'the quiet one' or 'the spiritual one', and his talents were often obscured by the more upfront Lennon and McCartney, but Scorsese's film comprehensively reassesses his considerable musical influence.

The movie, which premiered in Liverpool in October 2011, follows Harrison's story from his earliest days in Liverpool through to his success with the Beatles, his travels to India, the influence of Indian culture in his music and his spiritual quest, his work as a movie producer with Handmade Films and, of course, it features many of his great songs. His 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass, which is arguably the best solo Beatles recording, is the heart of the film.

Living in the Material World presents many interviews with friends, family and musicians intercut with archival footage, much of which is previously unseen. The large roll-call of interviewees includes Olivia and son Dhani, Beatles Paul and Ringo, Phil Spector, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty, Formula One driver Jackie Stewart, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and many, many more.

After assisting his Monty Python mates in completing Life of Brian, Harrison and partner Denis O'Brien established Handmade Films, which was instrumental in releasing alternative British comedy. George went on to produce 20 movies including Withnail and I, Time Bandits, Mona Lisa and Shanghai Surprise. (Several of his films featured cameo appearances from Harrison.) His 1971 Concert for Bangledesh was the first global benefit gig.

This is a fascinating, engrossing and compassionate story of a man who had his fill of all the indulgences of fame, money, sex, drugs and rock n' roll but who chose a spiritual path and gardening. Living in the Material World is a three-hour plus epic that is presented in a largely conventional biographical style, but it is done so skilfully by Scorsese and it is expertly edited by David Tedeschi.

 

Living in the Material World will be screened at the Star Court Theatre this Friday, February 3, at 6.30pm and this Sunday, February 5, at 5pm.


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