Oct 222009

A friend who really needs to enter the Halls of Rock more than any other friend I know, Jay Schwartz, is screening The Beatles’ lost feature Let It Be, as part of his Secret Cinema series at Moore College of Art & Design (20th & Race Sts, Philadelphia) this Friday, October 23. Showtime is 8:00 pm; admission is $7. I was planning on being there, but now I’ve got to make a whirlwind work trip across the country instead. If you’ve never seen this film on a big screen, I highly recommend it. If you’ve seen it long ago and live in the Philadelphia area, I still recommend being there. I’d love to read some discussion over it when I get back on Sunday.

If you do go, please do me one favor:
Introduce yourself to Jay, tell him your a Townsperson, and tell him he’s been SUMMONED to enter the Halls of Rock and display his rock nerd prowess once and for all! And tell him we love him and all that nice stuff.

Here’s the official Secret Cinema press release:

On Friday, October 23, The Secret Cinema at Moore College of Art and Design will present the Beatles’ final feature film, LET IT BE. Though difficult to see — LET IT BE, the movie, has been essentially out of circulation for at least a quarter-century — it is nonetheless an essential chronicle of a dark but crucial period in the life of this greatest rock band ever. In addition to intimately capturing the recording of some of their best-known music, LET IT BE unflinchingly captures the breaking apart of the Beatles. Out of TV and theatrical distribution, and still unreleased on DVD, we are excited to be presenting an archival, dye-transfer Technicolor print of this holy grail of rock docs as it was meant to be seen, projected from real film on the big screen.

The screening will include surprise Beatles short subjects, and starts at 8:00 pm. Admission is $7.00

All Secret Cinema presentations are projected in 16mm film on a giant screen (not video).

A full description of the feature follows.

LET IT BE (1970, Dir: Michael Lindsay-Hogg)
After the all-encompassing “White Album,” the Beatles looked for an alternate approach to continue creatively together as a unit. The idea: to return to their roots of writing, rehearsing, recording and performing a brand new album for the public, all the while filming the process. The project continued to change throughout production, and nothing turned out as imagined — even the now famous “rooftop” concert was a last minute change. The fascinating “bioscopic” result (boiled down from a full month’s worth of shooting during January 1969) was released as a theatrical film (not a multi-part TV program as originally planned) a year later. Without intending, the Beatles had chronicled their own demise as it happened.

British television director Michael Lindsay-Hogg had previously directed promo clips for the Beatles and Rolling Stones. He began the LET IT BE shoot just after working on the Stones’ (ultimately un-aired) “Rock and Roll Circus” TV special, filming in the eye-on-the-wall cinema verite style. From the start the group were awkward and uncomfortable making music in a cold film studio while being filmed, and long-building tensions came to the surface as the cameras rolled. A switch in locale to their Apple headquarters helped relax them somewhat, but the film reveals that the musicians’ relationships with each other had changed deeply since their start less than a decade before, and things would never be the same.

The project was temporarily shelved, and one more album (ABBEY ROAD) was recorded and released in the intervening year. April/May 1970, a confusing time for Beatles fans around the world, produced several foreboding signs: The release of solo albums from Paul and Ringo, an uncharacteristically orchestrated Beatles single (drastically altered from the version recorded in the film) that seemed to announce that the group’s long road was ending, and Paul’s proclamation that he was quitting the band. At the May 20 London Palladium premiere of LET IT BE, no Beatles would attend, a first for an official Beatles movie launch. For those inside watching the film, the reasons for the split were as big as life…and the sixties were definitely over.

LET IT BE had a short theatrical run, then became a staple of midnight screenings at repertory cinemas through the seventies. It was released on VHS by Magnetic Video, (the first company to sell prerecorded movies on video), and was ultimately released on laserdisc, but has been out of print on all formats since the early 1980s.


  13 Responses to “Friday, October 23: The Secret Cinema Presents Let It Be

  1. I got a boot DVD copy of Let It Be about a month ago and trudged through it for the first time in nearly 15 years. What a depressing movie. The band sounds tired and bored, the sound is horrible, the playing is uninspired, the lighting is even bad.

    The rooftop gig is kinda cool, but by then I am too depressed to enjoy it.

    The Beatles breaking up was far to painful to watch again and again on purpose.

  2. dbuskirk

    I’m revisiting the this week as well. Found this quote from John, talking about Paul complaints on Spector’s work on the LET IT BE LP:

    Despite the criticisms leveled at Spector over the years for his handling of the material, Lennon defended him in his famous Playboy interview 10 years later, saying, “He was given the shittiest load of badly-recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.”

    For film geeks only:
    The film was shot on 16mm, whose image was crop at the top and bottom to make a rectangular 1:85 ratio. The video takes that image and crops it on both sides, mean that the image the remains has been cropped on all four sides, leaving just a square in the middle that we are viewing. I’m excited to see Jay’s print if only to see the two sides put back on.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    I have always been in agreement with John’s assessment of Spector’s work on Let It Be. The album still sucks ass, but blaming Spector for that is just silly.

    Wish I could be in Philly for the screening.

  4. BigSteve

    I had no idea Let It Be had been basically withdrawn from circulation. The Beatles have always had a case of Stones envy, and I think maybe they wanted their own Cocksucker Blues.

  5. dbuskirk

    I wrote about the film today over at Phawker.com:


    It definitely seemed different coming back o it after many years. I dislike Paul just a little bit more.

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    Thanks for that review, dbuskirk!

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Besides dbuskirk, were there any Townspeople in the house? I want to know how it went.

  8. dbuskirk

    What, am I an unreliable witness?

    Actually, I wasn’t there either. Stuck home with lil’ Ringo last night….

  9. pudman13

    Why dislike Paul? The movie (and everything else–the bootleg tapes, the books) proves that he’s the only one there who had any interest in giving their fans anything of quality, and I think he should be respected for that.

  10. dbuskirk

    I can see that reading of Paul, why be so down on someone who trying to make things happen? Have you seen LET IT BE recently? My feeling is that he’s the one who is pushing the Beatles machine to produce at a time when they might have been better off taking a breather (there is such a sense of exhaustion with LET IT BE). That whole thing of making the fiancee’s dad the head of the business thing was supposedly a source of friction as well.

    It is a personal thing as well, no doubt. Something about the guy just bugs me, as much as I do admire much about his talent. Last time I saw The Mayseles’ Beatles doc, it seemed like Paul was already fond of hearing himself talk in ’64.

    I’m filled with all sorts of almost irrational warmth for the other guys (I once had a dream I sat with Lennon in Dirty Franks, and all we talked about was how much we liked George’s music). But I think if I was on a desert island with Paul we’d end up like Mifune and Marvin in HELL IN THE PACIFIC, with a different ending.

  11. pudman13

    The reason I posted was that I saw LET IT BE recently for the first time in about 30 years, and also read the entire book about the Get Back sessions, and listened to several bootlegs of the sessions themselves.

    Beatles’ fans generally fall into John or Paul camps, and I’m a Paul guy, mostly because John’s flippancy and generally negative worldview just doesn’t jibe with my own values. Paul could be a pain in the ass, and was as arrogant as any genius would be, but without his push, ABBEY ROAD would have ever happened, and it’s my favorite Beatles album. It’s odd to realize just how much lesser was the quality of their songwriting during the LET IT BE period, but most of that is Lennon being completely out of it (and I blame his drug use every bot as much as I blame his Yoko fixation), and ABBEY ROAD shows that they still had it in them. Also, the Get Back sessions include snippets of some of Paul’s best solo songs, stuff like “Another Day,” “Back Seat of My Car,” and “Every Night,” so he clearly was still in a very fertile songwriting period.

    Paul’s biggest fault, I think, was his dismissal of George…but Lennon was actually even MORE guilty of it, if you pay attention.

  12. dbuskirk

    Yeah, the pessimism John exhibits in “All You Need Is Love” always brings me down.

    Are you sure you’re not confusing John with Randy Newman? They were both friends with Nilsson…

  13. Yeah, the pessimism John exhibits in “All You Need Is Love” always brings me down.

    …or “The Word” for that matter.

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