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Sunday, December 02, 2007

More visual wizardry from Julie Taymor in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (the soundtrack's good too)

Seriously, this will not be a very in-depth film review. My lack of familiarity with all Beatles' songs meant that I can only enjoy and judge the film as any other musicals when watching ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. The emotional depth of which Beatles song being used in the film is mostly lost to me, I think.

Anyway, my lack of familiarity has more to do with the fact that I don't listen to every single one of their albums, and not personal bias nor indifference. Even so, I did grow up listening to some songs, it's inevitable. Dad listens to them all the time, and many songs have long integrated themselves into current pop culture.

I saw this film in the morning with my dad and his friend, Uncle Philip, and both, being fans of The Beatles, could enjoy the film, and then also speak about the originality of the interpretation methods of each song, while noting how many 'Lennon songs' were used and how many 'McCartney songs' were used, then drawing the conclusion that for the important messages and the best scenes of the film, they were mostly from Lennon.

To me, I could just name out which scenes I liked, why I liked them, and that's it.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is a musical, its soundtrack comprises of only Beatles' songs. The story... um, it's sort of like a love story set against the 1960s anti-war protests. There's really not much about the story, a Liverpool dude, Jude (Jim Sturgess) goes to US to find a dad he never knew, befriends Princeton drop-out (Joe Anderson), falls in love with Max's sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). They then meet up with a Janis Joplin clone named Sadie (Dana Fuchs), a Jimi Hendrix wannabe named JoJo (Martin Luther), and an Asian lesbian cheerleader, Prudence (T.V. Carpio). War erupts, they go protest, lots of singing involved.

As a whole, the film doesn't flow. It's somewhat fragmented, I can enjoy most of the musical sequences, not that much of the narrative, good thing there a lots of singing in the film (30+, I think), because the non-singing parts are rather tedious and dull. I care a bit for the characters and their fates, so even though finding the film a wee bit too long, I think it's not a waste of time.

Problem is, the film does start off rather slowly. The first few musical numbers were too conventional and flat. I started to feel rather worried.

"Man, HAIRSPRAY and ENCHANTED are better than this." I thought. (I didn't think of the brilliant ONCE because that one's a different type of movie altogether.)

Where's the visual wizardry of Julie Taymor? I frowned and wondered. Taymor's previous films were TITUS and FRIDA (saw only the latter), and I know that she has incredible skills at creating something visually dazzling, her choreography, art direction are often really impressive. Her flair for spectacle is something I truly admire.

Fortunately, the film gradually escalates, becoming better when Taymor lets loose with her visual bombast. Halfway through the film, each musical number gets more psychedelic and inventive. Slight boredom is replaced by awe.

The ones that I like and I can name off the top of my head are "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", Bono's performance of "I AM A WALRUS", "STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER", "COME TOGETHER" are the ones that I really liked. There are more, and they probably outnumber the bad ones too.

Despite the film is set during the Vietnam War, the message is clearly about the current Iraq War, never judgemental, the protesters of the war are never favoured over the war supporters, eventually, both are equally fanatical when showing trying to defend their stance.

Quite a good film, makes me want to borrow some Beatles albums from dad for a listen. Kinda sad that only five people were in the cinema when I went to see it.