Let It Be

1970, Movie, G, 81 mins

Review

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Filmed as the Beatles were crumbling under the weight of their own legend, LET IT BE is a milder film than its reputation suggests. For the most part, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are shown working out arrangements to new songs and informally covering some of their favorite oldies before taking to the rooftop of the Apple building for what would prove to be their last public performance together.

LET IT BE (originally to have been titled GET BACK) was conceived as part of a step away from the studio-bound music the Beatles had been making ever since they decided to quit touring. They had decided to record an album of simpler songs that relied less on overdubs and added instruments. A film crew was hired to record them as they worked on this in January 1969. But the band grew uncomfortable trying to create under such conditions, and the production was moved out of Twickenham film studios to their recording studio at Apple. Even then, no one was happy with the results, which were not edited and released until spring of 1970.

The first hour of LET IT BE watches the band rehearse "Don't Let Me Down," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "Two of Us," "I've Got a Feeling," "Oh Darling," "One After 909," ""Dig It," "The Long and Winding Road" (with a Bossa Nova beat), "I Me Mine," "For You Blue," and "Octopus' Garden." (Most of these songs later appeared on the "Let It Be" album, but in versions that had been altered considerably by producer Phil Spector, who added orchestrations and back-up singers.) Joined by keyboardist Billy Preston, The Beatles also do loose versions of songs they performed in their pre-fame days, including "You Really Got a Hold On Me," "Rip It Up," "Shake Rattle and Roll," "Kansas City," and a goofy version of "Besame Mucho." After a brief conversation between Paul and John about how nervous the band is about playing live, which they hadn't done in a while, there are polished versions of "Two of Us," "Let It Be," and "The Long and Winding Road," possibly intended to be issued as performance clips (the equivalent of rock videos). The film concludes with the rooftop concert, as they play "Get Back," "Don't Let Me Down," "I Got a Feeling," One After 909," "I Dig a Pony," and a reprise of "Get Back."

Although the individual Beatles and others in attendance later reported that these sessions were torturous for all involved, LET IT BE is hardly a document of the Beatles's break up. There is a flare-up between Paul and George, who resents being treated like a session player; Paul seems to be leading the others more than interacting with them, and Yoko Ono seldom seems to leave John's side. Still, the scenes included in the film show the four simply trying to make music, and often as not having fun doing it. Ironically, the Beatles were awarded an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.

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