We all know that the upcoming DVD film release has been delayed. It must do the festival circuit and get a proper release first. It looks like things may be ready to hit the general public in time for a Christmas release. Kinda ironic don’t you think. Let’s hit the fans in time for the holiday season for a product that they may or may not want.
Where’s remastered Magical Mystery Tour? Where’s the Let It Be DVD? Where’s the remasters already? I mean, it’s not like we all won’t buy this product, but it feels like a bribe in a way. They are simply throwing this out to fans as something to chew on until bigger things come. We’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s what we’ve read.
Combining the music of the most beloved band in the world with the most visually arresting live performance troupe working today seems like a surefire recipe for a hit. That’s probably what the late George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté thought when they first dreamed up the concept for Love, the Beatles-themed show that premiered in Las Vegas in 2006; and it’s surely what director Adrian Wills imagined when he signed up to make All Together Now, a feature length documentary about the making of the show. You mean I get to use a soundtrack by The Beatles and film talented acrobats performing amid elaborate, colorful stage decorations? Wills must have thought. Where do I sign?
Indeed, All Together Now, which had its U.S. premiere Monday night at the opening ceremony for the SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, contains all the same ingredients that has made Love such a big hit despite deep skepticism among Beatles purists. There’s the music, just to start. It may be remixed by original Beatles producer Sir George Martin and his son, Giles Martin, to sound just a little slicker and showier, but it’s still The Beatles, for heaven’s sake. There’s not much you can do to screw up songwriting like that, and the two Martins have taken great care to make sure it still sounds like the music you know and love. Then there’s the genial personalities of the Fab Four themselves — or the remaining two, anyway, plus the widows, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, as stand-ins for George and John. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both appear in the film, as they come by to give their blessings through several stages of Love’s production process, and their entirely familiar yet larger than life presences lend a number of warm fuzzies to the proceedings. Lastly there’s Cirque du Soleil, by now a brand name that’s become synonymous with “wow” — people regularly plop down $130 per ticket for a reason. Cirque may no longer be innovative, but it’s eternally in your face.
So what could go wrong? Quite a lot, it turns out. The set-up Wills provides for the story behind the making of Love starts out as intriguing: what happens when two powerful creative forces come together to collaborate on a $180 million project? Who’s in control? Who gets the final word? And will compromises on both sides render the show a muddled disaster?
Both Apple Corps, the litigious company that protects the legacy of The Beatles, and the leadership of Cirque du Soleil are famous for being uncompromising, and Wills does manage to capture some of the conflict inherent in the endeavor. The Martins are worrying themselves in the studio about going too far with the mix. Love director Dominic Champagne worries about showing a too-rough early staging to Paul McCartney. Everyone worries what Yoko will think.
The most tense scene in the film is when the entire Apple group, including McCartney, Starr, Harrison, and Ono attend the first full dress rehearsal, about a month before the show is set to premiere. After it’s over, Ono approaches Champagne and tells him in no uncertain terms that she thinks his interpretation of John Lennon’s iconic song “Come Together” is “sleazy.” We’re told at the beginning of the film that the way Apple Corps works is that everyone has to agree — you can’t overrule a dissenting opinion with a majority vote. If one of them thinks something doesn’t honor the Beatles legacy, it can’t happen. So the question is there immediately: could Yoko force them to make changes, even at this late date?
Tragically, Wills fails to answer his own question. We never know whether creative changes were made after that feedback — or after any of the feedback received by Cirque from Apple Corps, for that matter. Snippets of final sequences in Love make it seem like there could have been small tweaks, but it’s hard to tell, and no one ever says for sure. In the end we just see everyone smiling and dressed up for the big premiere, then we see the show, and we’re left to assume that everyone was happy with the results. It’s plausible that the director just couldn’t get straight answers out of those who were involved in the final decisions — being diplomatic in cases like this one would certainly be wise. But he was also there from first rehearsal to final product, and surely knows whether elements were ultimately missing.
Instead, Wills chooses to leave us with a glossy finish. It’s a documentary that ends up feeling just about as good as going to see Love itself, which, at $120 less per ticket, is probably worth the price of admission. Still, much like the Vegas show it depicts, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been left out of All Together Now.
All Together Now screens again at the SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival on Monday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m.