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UK/Germany 1994
Directed by
Iain Softley
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Backbeat

Iain Softley’s account of the “Hamburg” period of The Beatles’ career is more about the relationship between Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff) and John Lennon (Ian Hart) than the band per se.  Paul McCartney (Gary Bakewell), George Harrison (Chris O'Neill) and Pete Best (Scot Williams) are only background figures in what Softley portrays as a tense homo-erotic bond that breaks when the Liverpool lads meet Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee), a photographer who favours Sutcliffe over Lennon.

How much of this it true and how much is legend we’ll never know (the film does not subscribe to the conjecture that the aggro Lennon gave Sutcliffe the head injury that eventually killed him in 1962) but Softley spins a classic à trois romance around the relationship between three young people at the same time as nicely portraying the dues-paying cover-band years of what soon would become the Fab Four. Ian Wilson’s cinematography is particularly valuable here, although Don Was’s music seems incongruously anachronistic at times.

Although Ian Hart looks nothing like Lennon, he gives a convincing performance and Sheryl Lee who everyone will recognize from Twin Peaks is quite effective as Astrid Kirchherr.  American actor Stephen Dorff, who looks strikingly like Ewan McGregor who was a relative unknown at the time is passable as Stu Sutcliffe, according to this film, a poor bass player but a Rimbaud-reading painter of promise whose tragic death, along with Lennon and McCartney's ambitiousness, indicates a much darker beginning to the mop-topped ones than is commonly known.


 

 

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