The Pitch: In January of 1969, the Beatles, wearing by internal tensions and alienated through years of not touring together, attempted to do the impossible: get back together to craft not only a new album but to record it live in concert, without any overdubs or studio tricks. Not only that, they wanted to film a TV special to coincide with the album’s release, which necessitated the hiring of director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and the building of Twickenham Film Studios into an erstwhile rehearsal space. On top of all that, they had just four weeks to pull this all off.
The results were bittersweet: The album was released to muted fanfare (though it’s since been reappraised), and the ambitious TV special was whittled down to a now-iconic live concert atop the roof of Apple headquarters. But it’d be the last hurrah for a band that redefined pop music in a mere decade, a breakup whose causes have been speculated on wildly in the years since.
Maybe it’s Yoko Ono pulling John Lennon away from the band; maybe it’s manager Allein Klein screwing them out of royalties; maybe it’s the clashing egos of four twentysomething Liverpudlians who became rock gods virtually overnight. But director Peter Jackson, overseeing nearly 60 hours of previously unseen footage from Lindsay-Hogg’s filming of events (which eventually became the middling, 80-minute doc Let It Be), chronicles that strained month in the Fab Four’s life with a new three-part miniseries for Disney+, The Beatles: Get Back.
The Long and Winding Runtime: Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami once said, “I really think that I don’t mind people sleeping during my films, because I know that some very good films might prepare you for sleeping or falling asleep or snoozing.”
This, I say with all love, fits The Beatles: Get Back to a tee. At nearly eight hours, Jackson has essentially crafted another Lord of the Rings-level epic, but this time one that features guitars and bruised egos rather than magic rings and elfen armies. It’s luxuriantly paced, Jackson massaging dozens of hours of footage and stream of consciousness jam sessions into three episodes that range from two-plus hours to nearly three.