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November 24, 2007

Across the Universe (2007)

across the universe 1.jpg

Julie Taymor - 2007
Columbia Pictures 35mm Film

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know I'm coming quite late to this particular party.

Having lived through some of the events chronicled in , as well as simply having my teen years pretty much coincide with the years that The Beatles ruled the world, I had many thought while watching Across the Universe. The film is more of a dream of the past rather than a document. For one thing, white kids never danced that well in real life. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Across the Universe is that in combination with the release of I'm Not There, that The Beatles and Bob Dylan still matter forty years after their best work.

Yes, in 1967 one could still hear singers taking pages from the Al Jolson songbook. The difference was that it was aimed almost strictly for an older audience. What Julie Taymor wants to accomplish is a bit more than an exercise in nostalgia. Still, as one who lived in Greenwich Village just a few blocks from where the Weather Underground had their mishap in bomb making, as well as the student protests in May of 1970, I couldn't help but think simultaneously of my own life at that time as well as where I was and what I was doing when the various Beatle songs were released.

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One hopes that the DVD will have detailed commentary by Taymor, and screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. The IMDb trivia section for Across the Universe pretty well tracks many of the references to The Beatles as well as other people and events used in the film. There may be other references that have been missed. Clement and La Frenais could well have their own Beatles stories to tell. In addition to writing the screenplay for Michael Winner's swinging Sixties comedy, The Jokers in that special year of 1967, they also wrote the George Harrison produced film, Water. Further evidence of Clement and La Frenais' rock and roll hearts can be found in Brian Gibson's under appreciated final film, Still Crazy.

I was caught off guard by the shift in "With a Little Help from My Friends" from a version still resembling that from the Sergeant Pepper album, to the stylized wailing as done by Joe Cocker. Even funnier was to discover that Joe Cocker makes an appearance. Also sort of clever was incorporating some characters dancing behind Eddie Izzard's Mr. Kite that looked like elongated versions of Yellow Submarine's Blue Meanies. Most surprising of all was the reading of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" by T.V. Carpio. What is striking about two of the older songs used, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "Hold Me Tight" is that in looking back at the Beatles' history, the songs, reinforced in the context of the film, suggest a greater sense of anxiety about the world than met my teenage eyes at the time, a not fully articulated sense of feeling disconnected to other people, if not the world at large.

Can I discuss Evan Rachel Wood without gushing? As soon as she appears singing "Hold Me Tight", the most exuberant number in the film, I felt like I was watching a new incarnation of the classic movie star. By this, I mean the kind of star who could sing, dance and act, back at a time when such "versatility" was ordered by the studios. For a few moments, between Wood's singing and dancing, Taymor's direction and Daniel Ezralow's choreography, I was hoping maybe they could get back together to do a really smart remake of Beach Blanket Bingo.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 24, 2007 12:31 AM


Peter, I'm glad you liked the film and Evan Rachel Wood. So did I. It's interesting that everybody is going gaga for "I'm Not There" (and I like that film a lot, too), but it's not really that different from "Across The Universe" in its fantasias about the '60s. It just proves that Dylan will always be cooler with the critics.

Posted by: the shamus at November 25, 2007 09:45 AM

I heard that initially Taymor wanted her name taken off of the film because of studio meddling, but they eventually came to an agreeement, althouh I'm not clear myself if this is her original vision or just closer to it than the original cut. Assuming it isn't, there may even be a director's cut available, and perhaps this will fix some of my problems with the film, namely in the uneven plotting.

I love your point about disconnect and anxiety, because it seems to run through the film. Not only in the two songs you mention, but in Oh Darling (which is the only song I think is more anxious in it's original Beatle's incarnation) and even Let it Be.

I actually feel the opposite about Evan Rachel Wood, and felt she was very wooden and rather unlikeable. I know I'm very much in the minority in this stance though.

Posted by: Justine at November 25, 2007 12:11 PM

For the most part i enjoyed across the universe. Yeah, its not a documentary about the '60s, but i think it captures the dream of what the hippi life was back then. i loved the remake of most of the beatles songs, and thought the dancing and costumes were amazing.

Posted by: michelle at February 15, 2008 08:01 PM

i love across the universe. the concept of the whole movie is just amazing! all of the songs just flowed perfectly into the movie and all of the situations that the charecters were going through. (pardon any misspelled things. im only 12.) and Jim sturgess is so Hot!!!!!!!!!! he has beautiful eyes, and a flawless voice!!

Posted by: marissa at February 24, 2008 04:26 PM

Es casi irreal la forma en como se logra engranar las canciones de los beatles en esta pelicula en cuanto al momento donde se desarrolla la verdad creo que fue un buen tributo para ellos y a esa epoca maravillosa.. Para los verdaderos fans de los beatles sera un clasico. Espero seguir siempre la pista de esta gran directora y de este elenco. Desde Venezuela.

Posted by: Ronal Castro at June 14, 2008 09:47 AM

I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie....Jim Sturgess is amazingly HOTTT!!!!
its my favorite movieee =]

Posted by: jessica at October 6, 2008 02:26 PM

Oh my god!! I fucking LOVE this movie!! I have got to say that Across the Universe is the BEST movie that i have ever seen!! I LOVE it and every actor that stared in it too!! Like Jim Sturgess is the HOTEST actor EVER!!! :) I love all of you guys!

Posted by: Savanna Reicherts at February 12, 2009 04:42 PM