Thursday, February 18, 2010

Across The Universe

Picked this up cheap on Blu-Ray at Costco. I saw some clips on YouTube and figured it was worth watching. I will give it a "should see", especially to music fans, pop culture fans, 1960's gurus, film enthusiasts, and lovers of choreography. For Beatles fans, this is a "must see"... though any true Beatles fan has already seen it, and doesn't need me to tell you that. I would put this as a modern version of the movie "Hair", but with all the music selected from The Beatles' extensive catalog.

The original Broadway play "Hair" did not have contain a narrative, but was a collage of songs, dances, and essays; the movie took those elements and wrapped them loosely around a plot. This is essentially what happens in "Across the Universe". A group of characters meet up and interact as music and dance occurs around them, sometimes occurring within the reality of the movie (such as performances by Sexy Sadie), but more often in typical musical fashion where they just break into song and dance as the plot is revealed.

This is certainly a quality production on many levels. The dancing and singing is quite good, the camera work is very imaginative, the choreography is also innovative and well executed. The script contains uncountable references to Beatles lyrics on top of the fact that all the characters take their names from Beatles tunes. There are also infinite references to various pop culture icons and events of the era. Of course the War in Vietnam is a central theme, the burning of draft cards, Yippies marching in the streets with analogous characters to Abbie Hoffman and other real life people, a scene from an "Electric Cool-Aid" party where you can see a Gerry Garcia-like character, an Allen Ginsberg, and many others.

Oddly enough, though certainly a conscious effort, there are many drug references yet the characters do not themselves partake. They mime smoking weed, but say things like "I don't even smoke". They do, however, drink beer.

The movie is speckled with well known celebrities such as Joe Cocker, Bono and Eddie Izzard (Brit comedian).

There are some anachronistic elements, such as musical interpretations that just didn't exist back then... like a bit of heavy punk-ish sounds, and general singing styles that didn't come into popularity until much later. But this is not really a problem as this is not a historical piece, it is a modern interpretation of the 60's era.

Lots of "making of" features on the Blu-Ray, director's commentary, detailed commentary on the correography, and all that good stuff. This works pretty well as a movie, and pretty well as a video album.

I recommend experiencing this one through a good audio system. I'm not sure it would hold up over plain old TV speakers. Swing on by if you want to have a look.