In 2018, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson presented his World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old. It was a remarkable achievement, painstakingly colourising battlefield footage (drawn from the Imperial War Museum), and overdubbing the footage with haunting narration from those involved. The process brought a fresh sense of intimacy to a conflict that threatens to slip out of the memory with each passing year.
It seems that Jackson isn't ready to leave the realm of documentary behind just yet, because he now turns his attention to The Beatles with upcoming film The Beatles: Get Back. The Fab Four – aka John, Paul, Ringo and George – are the subject of Jackson's latest which, as per the synopsis, "will showcase the warmth, camaraderie and humor of the making of the legendary band’s studio album, 'Let It Be,' and their final live concert as a group, the iconic rooftop performance on London’s Savile Row".
Jackson, along with his team from They Shall Not Grow Old, has intricately restored archive footage taken from the height of 1960s Beatlemania, including unique scenes of the group working together in the studio. As before, this allows the years to dissolve away, meaning we can rediscover the groundbreaking quartet with fresh eyes. “Working on this project has been a joyous discovery," Jackson says. "I’ve been privileged to be a fly on the wall while the greatest band of all time works, plays and creates masterpieces."
The aforementioned rooftop performance in January 1969 remains one of the most famous moments in British musical culture, not least because it was the group's first collaboration in two years, and the final live set they performed together. Across 42 minutes' worth of footage, we see interactions between the band members, reactions from fans and employees from nearby businesses, and comical attempts to stop the concert by two young London policemen responding to noise complaints.
Jackson's film is compiled from over 55 hours of unseen footage, filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969, and 140 hours of mostly unheard audio recordings from the 'Let It Be' album sessions. McCartney enthuses: "Working on this project has been a joyous discovery. I’ve been privileged to be a fly on the wall while the greatest band of all time works, plays and creates masterpieces. I’m thrilled that Disney have stepped up as our distributor. There’s no one better to have our movie seen by the greatest number of people."
Disney chief Bob Iger released the following statement: "No band has had the kind of impact on the world that The Beatles have had, and The Beatles: Get Back is a front-row seat to the inner workings of these genius creators at a seminal moment in music history, with spectacularly restored footage that looks like it was shot yesterday. I’m a huge fan myself, so I could not be happier that Disney is able to share Peter Jackson’s stunning documentary with global audiences in September."
In addition, a fully restored version of the original Let It Be film will be screened at a later date. Originally released in May 1970, three weeks after The Beatles had broken up, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg's movie was itself based around the Savile Row rooftop concert. During the 15-month gap between the filming of Let It Be and its launch, The Beatles recorded and released their final studio album, Abbey Road, which came out in September 1969.
The Beatles: Get Back is released in Cineworld cinemas on the 4th of September. Let us know @Cineworld if you're planning to watch it.