I went to see "Across the Universe," this afternoon. It's Julie Taymor's latest project, a film about young adults in the 1960s told with Beatles music. In a way, the approach is similar to "Moulin Rouge," a film I did not much like and would characterize as an interesting failure -- the songs follow the arc of the story, often with the characters bursting into a song the describes or forwards the action -- but the songs, the singers, and the story are better than those in Luhrman's film . . . for the most part.
As a longtime Beatles fan, going back to the moment when "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" on the kitchen radio stopped me dead in my tracks at age 5, I had a lot emotionally invested -- could be easily moved, could be easily turned off by a false move -- but I've admired the way Taymor takes artistic risks and was hoping this one would work out.
The new movie is a glorious experiment that does not always work. Sometimes it's boring, sometimes it's contrived, sometimes it's just too weird, sometimes it pushes the mawkish factor too much, but there are moments of great beauty -- visual and aural -- and I cried twice.
I recognized most of the cameos -- Bono, Joe Cocker, Salma Hayek, and of course Dylan Baker was obvious -- but was not familiar with Eddie Izzard enough to know that was him playing Mr. Kite. I kept careful count of all the songs used in the film, wholly and partially, and came up with 32. The credits list numbered 34, and there was definitely one I did not remember hearing in the movie, "And I Love Her"; anybody else know where it was used?
The actors all had terrific singing voices, though I got a little tired of the vocal mannerisms of the boy who played the Liverpool lad, Jude.
The movie made me feel many of the things that great works of art make me feel -- that I'm lucky to be alive, that I should take better care of the people I love, that making music (the act of it as well as music as a long term creative endeavor) is one of the purest, most wonderful things that human beings can do.
I think it's time to go on a karaoke outing again. . . .
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War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus
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