Let It Be (1970)
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Critic Reviews for Let It Be
The sycophancy of the direction notwithstanding, this survives as a fascinating record of both the Beatles' collapse and their unending power over their audience (us).
Sanitized it may well be, but agonizing nonetheless -- it's a domestic squabble that somehow touches history.
The scenes included in the film show the four simply trying to make music, and often as not having fun doing it.
In many ways, it is the best Beatles film.
Like the album it shares a name with, the film is not all it should have been.
Audience Reviews for Let It Be
"Letter B, letter B, letter B, oh, letter B!" After a while of that song, it starts to sound like he's saying that, or at least it did, because after spending nearly an hour-and-a-half of watching the Beatles just sit around and rehearse and record this album, I better know all about the songs on the final product. Seriously though, there's no forgetting this album, not necessarily because it's really good, but because its title ended up fitting beautifully, seeing as how this is the album that finally broke up the biggest band in the world, and ironically told all of the fans to simply, "let it be", which is good, because if I was back in 1970, I would probably need to be calmed down after going and on and on about, "No, guys, don't go, you just started getting good!" No, people, I just said that for shock value, and while the Beatles are given a bit more credit than they deserve for their influencing power, they've always been likable, or at least the ultimate cinematic cash bait. Jeez, and I thought that the feature films featuring the Beatles were likely cash-grabs, but if a documentary that could have gone to TV, but ended up being crammed into theaters, and is nothing but a fly-and-the-wall meditation upon the biggest band in the world recording their last album and occasionally going through the motions of breaking up isn't exploitation, then I don't know what is. Jeez, it sounds more like some kind of reality show, so basically, yeah, it is, in fact, a cash grab, only without that clearly faked stupidity to, you know, make it interesting. Yeah, they probably shouldn't have let this documentary be in the editing room, and yet, it could have fallen flatter, and would have were it not for some genuinely commendable beats. Later on, I will touch more upon the technical shortcomings of this documentary, which are so considerable that they actually do some serious damage to the audio quality of the footage, so it's not like you're able to soak up as much effectiveness as you would probably like to when it comes to the musical aspects around which this fly-on-the-wall documentary is built, yet through all of the flawed sound mixing, you can, of course, expect to find plenty of fine tunes, for although "Let It Be" didn't consistently hit, it was nonetheless a rewarding final album for the Beatles that offered plenty of stylistically dynamic, well-structured, entertaining and all around well-done tracks that can indeed be found throughout this film as components to what liveliness there is. Sure, the distancing technical shortcomings often leave the blandness that rarely abates between the rehearsal and recording sessions to bleed over into the musical moments, but on the whole, if there is entertainment value to this film, then it is anchored by the Beatles' enjoyable and final ditties, as surely as intrigue goes anchored by what goes on behind the making of these classic songs, or at least up to a point. What really does this film in is its not really being all that interesting on the whole, though the documentary isn't so much of a bore that you're entirely blind to the decision to make this film in the first place, because even there's only so much juice to this insightful look into the creative process and relationship between the members of one of the biggest bands of all time, from looks into the making of bona fide classic music to the looks into the collapse of a bona fide classic band, there's plenty that sounds interesting on paper, and when it comes to the final product, some of that potential for intrigue is indeed done a fair degree of justice. Technically, the footage that drives this fly-on-the-wall documentary is seriously improvable, but what can actually be seen through all of the distancing technical issues is material that is engaging enough to earn a bit of your investment, at least at times, offering fairly insightful analyses into the process of making songs which would go on to be the final hits in the Beatles' lifetime that provide a certain intrigue to go with the heart that is established by the more human side of this fly-on-the-wall rockumentary. By 1970, after ten years in the business, the Beatles had certainly established quite a relationship, and while this film stands to give you more insight into such a relationship, what information to gain about the Beatles as musical and personal companions graces the final product with some of its most endearing moments, whether when it's charmingly focusing on the more lighthearted interactions, or kind of compellingly focusing on the relatively shakier interactions that would ultimately prove the best legendary group's downfall. There's not really a whole lot to commend in this messy documentary, but what strengths there are tend to keep engagement value relatively firm, certainly not to where the film ever has strong moments, but decidedly to where you have intriguing moments that give you a taste of what could have been, even if such potential was always to be limited. Still, in the end, there's just not a whole lot going for the documentary for it to stand all that great of a chance of escaping underwhelmingness, whose ultimately engulfing this film in the form of mediocrity is an unfortunate outcome that has more than a few culprits, one of which being, of all things, technical problems. Like I said earlier, Anthony B. Richmond's footage isn't so technically sloppy that you can't get an adequate feel for the interactions and music that drive this fly-on-the-wall look into the Beatles' lives in the studio and, if you will, on the roof of the studio (Look it up, kids; Forget Candlestick Park in San Francisco, because that was the Beatles' real last live performance), but make no mistake, Richmond didn't exactly have high-grade equipment to work with when he shot this puppy all the way back in 1969, thus the footage he ends up with is hardly high in its quality grade, featuring shaky filming that is made all the worse by noisy definition and weak lighting whose questionability goes matched only by the questionability within the sloppy audio. I'm not asking that the film be as technically proficient as the more high-profile, yet still somewhat technically flawed "Woodstock", but the footage that ends up being the driving force of this aimless meditation upon the Beatles doing whatever is quite undeniably flawed on a technical level, and that distances you quite a bit, though not as much as the excessiveness of this technically imperfect footage. When I say that this film is nothing more than a meditation upon the creative process of and interactions between the legendary members of the Beatles, I mean that it really is just that, and such a formula can work, yet there are times in which this film gets way too carried away with its packing on too much filler, even for this documentary that is driven by filler, going bloated by material that, before too long, starts to meander its way into repetition, if not monotony, and wastes no time in failing to sustain as much liveliness as it probably should have. Again, the musical aspects that, of course, play a prominent role in this rockumentary help in livening things up, even if the technical shortcomings behind them have moments where they are too glaring for the tunes to hold your attention all that much, but when things start to quiet down, things start to dull down, and swiftly, because in spite of the intrigue within the material presented in this documentary, the actual presentation of the material is too lacking in snap to fight back boredom, or at least total disengagement. The film is kind of boring, having too much fat around the edges and not enough color at its core, until what you end up with is a draggy documentary that is never greater than underwhelming, but could still hold on to decency if the material that it blandly meditates upon is juicy enough to sustain your intrigue through all of the many slow-downs. Well, people, I hate to break it to you, but even though there are genuinely intriguing notes within this look into the artistry and shaky relationships of the Beatles, this documentary's subject matter is just not all that terribly interesting, having enough juice to it for the final product to come close to decency, but nowhere near enough juice to it for such decency to go consistently sustained, as opposed to some sense of pointlessness to this in-depth, fly-on-the-wall documentary that leaves you to sense the other shortcomings even more. Again, what is good about the film all but saves it as truly decent, and it helps that the flaws could be more grating, but make no bones about it, the flaws still stand, and they stand firmly at attention, as opposed to you, as all of the technical hiccups and pacing issues that reflect the lack of intrigue to this reasonably interesting, but not especially juicy subject matter are too considerable for your attention to be held by anything other than the feeling that what you end up with is an unfortunately mediocre misfire of a rockumentary. When the "long and winding road" is done and it's time to "let it be", this effort carries enough good music and potential for intrigue - which is often brought to life about as much as it can be by genuinely intriguing studies upon the Beatles as both musicians and people - to border on decent, but never quite cross over, as there are too many distancingly glaring technical shortcomings and dull spells in the midst of monotonous dragging within the footage material, and only so much that's interesting about this subject matter, for Michael Lindsay-Hogg's "Let It Be" to survive mediocrity that is fought against valiantly by undeniable strengths, yet ultimately claims this documentary that could have been more. 2.25/5 - Mediocre
The Beatles doing that they do best, making music. Never a bad thing.
I wouldn't be surprised if the reason why "Let It Be" is so difficult to obtain legally has something to do with Paul McCartney's awareness that he comes across as a bit of a twat in it. When he's not bullying George Harrison about his playing, he's bitching to John Lennon about Harrison's reluctance to perform in front of a live audience. There's also something cringe-making about the way in which McCartney earnestly pitches his songs ("Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road") straight down the barrel of the camera, while the other band members generally try to ignore the film crew. In the short-term, giving up touring in 1966 immeasurably improved the quality of both The Beatles' song-writing and their record production, but it also gave them too much free time to devote themselves to dubious religious enlightenment and naïve business ventures; in the era of Peace and Love they were a soft touch for parasitic spongers. If the formation of Apple Corps was a significant nail in the coffin of The Beatles, so too was the fact that, by stopping touring, they had effectively cut themselves off from their raison d'être: their audience. The famous rooftop concert that ends "Let It Be" is the perfect metaphor for the demise of The Beatles themselves. There they are on the roof of the Apple Building, working-class heroes turned businessmen, playing their hearts out for the public one last time - to a crowd of curious but largely unappreciative white-collar conservatives. It's a spectacle as tragic as it is uplifting.
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