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USA 2011
Directed by
Martin Scorsese
208 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Synopsis: A documentary on the life of George Harrison.

Anyone coming to Scorsese's latest encounter with rock royalty with his 2005 Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, in mind will find little comparable in this dotingly coy, near-hagiographic account of George Harrison’s life. At three-and-a-half hours it is simply too long, wearing out much of the good-will it initially earns for the man largely eclipsed by his more famous, but some might well argue, more talented band members, Lennon and McCartney.

There are two main themes to Scorsese’s film– one is that Harrison was under-appreciated as a songwriter and musician, the other is his dedication to a spiritual life. Certainly the first part of the film, which charts Harrison’s years with the Beatles and utilizes lots of excellent archival material mounts a convincing case for both his musical talent and his serious-minded disposition towards spiritual understanding. Beyond this period however the evidence becomes much thinner and, reading between the lines, quite contradictory. Despite this we are subjected to arnchair testimonials of the deceased's greatness not only from the likes of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton (better not to mention a creepy-looking Phil Spector) but also subjected to cosily banal anecdotes from Harrison’s friends like Eric Idle, culminating in a first-hand account from Harrison’s second wife, Olivia, of his 1999 stabbing. Intimations of rapture aside, none of this adds up to much more than showing us that the post-Beatle Harrison was an ordinary guy who had the time and money to indulge his interests and hang out with his equally time and money rich mates.

Scorsese’s adulation of The Rolling Stones is well known and that worked well for his showcase of the band in Shine A Light (2008), the slightly wince-inducing intro notwithstanding. Here his star-struck fawning has led him into indulging Harrison beyond the point of interest for all but the most devoted of fans.




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