wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Across The Universe is a heavy duty nostalgia trip, stylized and staged like a metaphorical bow to The Beatles. It emulates exactly everything that you would expect from a fan film – lot’s of music, re-done and a passable story. But beyond the music, the film has some visually exciting moments that make it worth a good watch and not just another Broadway show.Read more
Not all covers/remixes mean butchering a sanctified song, or including unnecessary add-ons. If handled aesthetically, some covers can bring a contemporary touch to a beautiful melody - but be warned, you need an open mind to appreciate them.
It’s a different story however, with a film that’s in honor of the Beatles. Your first thought on Across The Universe would be exactly what the film gives you – lots of beatles’ tracks, a musical love story and every shot as a homage to the legendary band – with names of the characters (Jude, Lucy, Sadie, Prudence), street names (Abbey Road) and silly little references in the dialogue.
Across The Universe follows a personal relationship between Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) and is placed against the backdrop of the Vietnam War - a typical, grand love story which is forwarded by 33 Beatles songs. It’s experimental and a must-see for any Beatles fanatic because that’s just what we do - scrutinize anything and everything remotely related to the band – songs, documentaries, books and the works.
The enjoyable thing about the film, however is that it brings much to the table for those who haven’t been crazy fans. Since it’s an out an out musical, the songs add the sense of drama to film. Across The Universe has an eclectic look (with costumes and the production design) that matches the psychedelic zone of the film set in the late 60s, and even though the story is simplistic, it’s universal in nature.
Where the film wins however, is in its ability to bring to the viewer more than just another visual representation of the songs – presumably the same songs they’ve been hearing for years. How well they’ve been covered is a topic for another review, but most tracks add a new dimension to the song - With underwater sequences spilling into Ballet, stage performances that turn into a war scene adding an avant garde touch to the film.
Here’s an example - I Want to Hold Your Hand is originally an upbeat, peppy song about yearning love and in the movie when Prudence sings the cover in a slow, melodic manner (right after a teary scene) it becomes a yearning song about a hand she might never hold. There are many tracks in the move that allow for respectful deconstructions of timeless songs for a renewed understanding. For that reason alone this visual homage to the Beatles’ works.
The 2 disc DVD set is like a goldmine – featuring the art from the film, an audio commentary from the director Julie Taymor (also the Broadway director of The Lion King) where she talks about why she needed to make a film and not a broadway show with
, lots of deleted scenes, a 6-min long featurette on the usage of visual effects in the film and the best part – all 33 covers of the songs.
You would think making a film like this would be fighting a losing battle. The ongoing debate about whether covers are good/bad/satisfactory doesn’t end with Across The Universe, but it takes some nerve to visualize a film that basically originates from 33 cover tracks.
Across The Universe has its own personality, not a very gripping story but that’s pardonable and you’ll most certainly be humming a tune or two once the movie is over. If you find yourself liking a song better than the original don’t be afraid - Let Yesterday Be, and buy the DVD.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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