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[Review] – ‘The Beatles Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years’

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 16 September 2016
 
Director: Ron Howard
 
Writer: Mark Monroe
 
Cast: Paul McCartney - Ringo Starr - John Lennon - George Harrison
 
Direction
 
 
 
 
 


 
Writing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Performance
 
 
 
 
 


 
Sound & Music
 
 
 
 
 


 
Cinematography
 
 
 
 
 


 
Editing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Visual Effects
 
 
 
 
 


 
Total Score
 
 
 
 
 
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Posted September 25, 2016 by

 
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Review:

Beatlemania surfaces again in the form of this documentary by Oscar-winning director and Beatles fan himself, Ron Howard. ‘Eight Days a Week’ roughly follows the life of the band as they frenetically toured the world from 1963 to 1966. 250 concerts, 300 songs and much bitterness later, the Fab Four put an end to the touring after the sensational Shea Stadium concert. 50 years later, Howard attempts to trace those touring years – starting with the joys and triumphs of a group of young boys sharing their music with the world, through to older men now jaded and frustrated with that same fame.

It’s clear the band were worked to the bone during these years, the sheer volume of concerts and records is evidence of that. The film gives us a good look at the mania surrounding each of these concerts and provides a lot of stories about the band working and supporting each other. But, with a title like ‘Eight Days a Week’ I was expecting a lot more insight into the hardships they faced as they raced from arena to arena, city to city and country to country. There’s only so much history documented, yet, with Paul and Ringo and several members of their entourage still living, I had hoped for a peak behind the scenes of their lives during these years. The information provided is sparse, at best.

It’s a very positive film, obviously made by someone who loves the Beatles and worships the music they created. Their drug use is only just touched on, while John’s errant statement about the Beatles and Christianity is approached from a very different angle – as one of the earlier instances of a reply taken out of context and how it puts paid to John’s and the others’ wish to quit touring.

If there is one thing we can all rely on Howard to do, it is his ability to give a rounded view to everything he touches. His ‘Rush’ may not have got a lot of love, but the film portrayed two flawed characters with a remarkable amount of grey areas. This film, while painting the four musicians as fantastic geniuses, also looks at the impact of their music in a country torn apart by race relations. The inclusion of Whoopi Goldberg and historian Kitty Oliver recounting their associations with the Beatles as young teenaged fans were undoubtedly remarkable strokes of genius by both Monroe and Howard. It also brought into light the Fab Four’s own views on race, something we hardly ever come across. These are some of the most touching and thought-provoking moments, ones that make you wish the documentary creators had searched out more of these stories to shed a new light on the world’s favourite pop band. It’s the only time during the feature’s runtime that the tagline of ‘The Band You Know. The Story You Don’t’ actually come into play.

At the same time, Howard’s industry connections mean there are a few interviewees who hardly fit in with the documentary (or the Beatles, in general), while others, like Malcolm Gladwell, get token amounts of screen time, but would definitely have added more to the impact and unfortunate importance of the Beatles’ touring.

The denouement, too, was far too abrupt, giving one the feeling that the Beatles retreated to their studio and were never seen, only heard, after 1966. This isn’t true, at all. The Beatles were one of the first bands to make music videos popular, and their later albums had many memorable videos. This was a point that should have at least been mentioned in the documentary.

For someone who has scoured ‘The Beatles Anthology’ series, this two-and-a-half-hour feature re-treads much of the old terrain, not really providing us with much new footage or awareness. It feels like a trailer for something more – I just wish there was something more.

Having said that, the digitally restored Shea Stadium concert footage at the end of the film more than makes up for the feature’s underwhelming nature. I’d like to say the goosebumps on my arms were caused by the air-conditioning at our theatre, but we all know there’s nothing quite like Beatles music.

Still relevant today, ‘Eight Days a Week’ is for any and every Beatles fan. Newbie or connoisseur, this should pique your interest and have you craving for more.

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Lestat de Lioncourt
Random Thoughts – Lestat’s Blog
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