Film Reviews


By • Oct 12th, 2007 •

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Daring and brilliant. A Taymor triumph. A mélange of visual creativity using the Beatles music to capture and express a generation in full. The fresh interpretation of the music is perfection.

Before the screening I happened upon the fabulously blunt and powerful L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke’s article called “Across An Alternate Universe” (Deadline Hollywood, April 11, 2007) chronicling the studio’s crisis leading up to the release of Julie Taymor’s film, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. While Finke had not seen the film, she related all the trauma that went into pulling the final edit together. Finke said: “Pretentious and indulgent” is how people describe her [Taymor’s] impossibly artsy-fartsy cut of Across the Universe, which test audiences dislike. Its problems, I’m told, include its length, its lack of narrative, its weird flights of LSD fancy (one laughable one with Bono, another with dancing puppet heads).”

I loved Taymor’s two previous films, TITUS and FRIDA, so I waited an additional 90 minutes for the print to be found, the projectionist to arrive, and the assembling of the print. Told the film clocked in at 2 hours and 13 minutes, most of the press that had assembled for a 10 AM screening left. I’m thrilled I stayed.

For everything that Finke reported about the film’s bloated length and how the producer, Joe Roth, finally brought in his own editor to re-assemble a more streamlined cut, at its preview screening time it seems that Taymor’s vision was retained. I disagree with test audiences. The 60’s and 70’s were all about LSD, hippies, groupies, flower power, Merry Pranksters and Beatles music. There was a narrative and I understood everything that was going on. I certainly did not need a voiceover or playbook.

Perhaps the test audiences or studio executives didn’t like the strong, non-verbal political message?

A corn-fed, all-American girl, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), leaves home to follow her older brother Max (Joe Anderson) to New York after her boyfriend dies in the Vietnam War. In Britain, a Liverpool kid, Jude (Jim Sturgess), comes to New York and meets Max, who invites him to live at singer Sadie’s (Dana Fuchs) Greenwich Village apartment.

If you want to put music to a generation that was evolving in the time of war, free love, and psychedelic exploration, Taymor’s use of the Beatles catalog is perfection.

Taymor begins the film on the face of newcomer Sturgess, who is incredibly charismatic. While everyone is terrific, Dana Fuchs, styled as a Janis Joplin singer, is mesmerizing.

I loved all the performances, with Bono as a Merry Prankster singing “I Am A Walrus,” Joe Cocker singing “Come Together” and Eddie Izzard performing “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” As far as Actors-Against-Taymor, FRIDA-star Salma Hayek is wonderful as the Singing Nurse. Many of the Beatles characters and greatest songs are represented. The most striking image for me is the underwear shod soldiers carrying the Statue of Liberty on their shoulders.

Don’t fear the uncompromised length, because after seeing it you will complain they probably made Taymor cut your favorite Beatles song.

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