The 1970 film “Let It Be” has always been a sore spot for both the Beatles and its fans, with its depressing view of the band’s final stretch amid a state of emotional and creative tensions. The film has intentionally been kept out of commercial since the late 1980s, and repeated announcements of the year of a digital restoration and release were never followed through with the film’s return.
Supposed, “Let It Be” is due to return next year following the release of Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back,” which culled segments from 56 hours of “Let It Be” footage to create a new vision of what took place during the rehearsal and recording sessions and the rooftop concert that were captured in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s original film. Whether “Let It Be” finally comes back remains to be seen, but Jackson has just dropped a teaser of what his “The Beatles: Get Back” will look like.
In a video that arrived on YouTube this morning, Jackson explains that the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the completion of his work, which was set to be release this year but is now being pushed back into August 2021. Jackson adds his work is not completed and there is no trailer ready, but instead he provides a glimpse of the footage that he plans to incorporate into his work.
What Jackson puts forth appears to have come from some alternate universe. The grim, pale, ill-looking and easily irritated Beatles in the Lindsay-Hogg film are replaced by cheery, mirthful and sugar-high-level energetic Beatles who enjoy being together and collaborating. This film finds the Beatles in what seems like a non-stop party, enlivened with Ringo Starr juggling his drumsticks and George Harrison laughing as his bandmates read a tabloid news item about his supposed problems over a nightclub fracas. Everyone in the studio is having the best of times – and even Yoko Ono, the stone-faced intruder who presence was ignored by everyone except John Lennon in the original film, is seen smiling and engaging in conversation with Linda Eastman, the future Mrs. McCartney.
Even more startling than the substance of Jackson’s compilation is the style – the colors in his footage are so bright that they recall the Powell-Pressburger Technicolor films of the 1940s rather than the less-than-stellar 16mm footage from Lindsay-Hogg that was blown up into a grimy 35mm print. Jackson is using the restoration techniques that he perfected in his 2018 documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” to make the footage seem much more vibrant than it ever was.
While “The Beatles: Get Back” promises a jolly time for Beatles fans, the unpleasantness of “Let It Be” is an honest consideration of four complex creative artists who needed to become independent entities. The re-release of “Let It Be” has been delayed so long that one can be pessimistic that its often-promised return will be yet another lie. Hopefully, “Let It Be” can be back in release next year and “The Beatles: Get Back” will not be substituted as a revisionist coda to the band’s odyssey.