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Delight for Beatles’ fans

Delight for Beatles’ fans

‘Let It Be’ is the restored version of the original film, released in 1970.

Film: Disney+Hotstar Let it Be

Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Parbina Rashid

Paul McCartney sang the ‘words of wisdom’ that Mother Mary ‘whispered’ to him and we knew that ‘there will be an answer’ to all our problems. We happily chorused with him, ‘Let it be, Let it be…’

But when we see McCartney along with John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison writing and recording ‘Let It be’ for their penultimate album, we realise that those ‘words’ actually eluded McCartney for a long time. He got the tune first, the lyrics came later!

After Peter Jackson gifted the world the TV series ‘The Beatles, Get Back’ in 2021, which he salvaged from the footage recorded by Michael Lindsay-Hogg during The Beatles’ 1969 sessions for a new album — to mark their first concert since 1966 — Jackson decided to restore the original Lindsay-Hogg film, ‘The Beatles: Let It Be’. The film was released in 1970, a month after McCartney had left the group.

Initially slated to be a concert film for television, Lindsay-Hogg ended up capturing those long hours of writing-practising sessions in a documentary format instead. It focuses on how, after the record-breaking ‘Abbey Road’, which was technically The Beatles’ last studio album, McCartney wants to return to his simple ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ days with his next offering. But his yearning is up against the thick vale of tension brewing among the team members.

The album that came out of those sessions was a patchy one which no Beatles member cared for. In fact, when the title song got the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1971, none of them were on stage to receive it.

“It really didn’t get a fair shake the first time,” Lindsay-Hogg tells Peter Jackson in an interview, added to the original film. According to Lindsay-Hogg, the 1970s’ viewers watched ‘Let It Be’ in a state of grief as it came just weeks after the band’s split.

But, the film’s tanking had more to it than just people’s grief. The edited footage, which spans over 1 hour and 21 minutes, rushes though everything, including the infamous row between McCartney and Harrison, the latter’s temporary exit from the group or his subsequent return. Nor do we get to see McCartney and Lennon’s covertly taped discussion about replacing him with Eric Clapton. We are wiser about such details, courtesy Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’.

As a documentary, it failed to provide a context to the 1970 audience, and to us, the audience of 2024, it looks more like an extended promo to ‘Get Back’. So, why would the current crop of Beatles fans watch a film which failed miserably? “‘Let It Be’ is the father of ‘Get Back’,” as Lindsay-Hogg puts it, and he feels it deserves a chance to be reassessed.

He has a point. His film has the same tone and tenor as ‘Get Back’, but offers the story in much less time. So, a viewer can whizz through instead of watching an eight-hour format. And, having been shoved into the cold storage for over 50 years, ‘Let It Be’ comes with vintage value without the vintage problem. The original film was blown up from 16mm to 35mm for a theatrical release, which affected the picture quality. That has been fixed in restoration.

All said and done, ‘Let It Be’ does have its share of memorable moments — Lennon and McCartney’s giggles as they sing ‘Two Of Us’; Ringo’s shocked expression when McCartney’s stepdaughter Heather hits his drums; the jam sessions for ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, ‘The Long And Winding Road’ and ‘Get Back’, which are now classics. The icing on the cake is Lennon and Yoko Ono breaking into an impromptu waltz to Harrison’s ‘I Me Mine’.

Everything in ‘Let It Be’ is spontaneous. There are no talk heads or narrator to puncture the flow, no recreated scenes to adulterate the incidents or the emotions. The delightful rooftop concert at the Apple HQ finds a prominent place in this documentary. As The Beatles give their final concert, people crowd on the streets and climb over the roofs, making us want to scream, ‘Get back’.