Let It Be – review

Let It Be – review


“Watch Paul and The Beatles in their 1970 film, Let it Be – streaming May 8th.”

We had the opportunity to attend an exclusive theatrical viewing of “Let It Be” in Oslo, Norway on Monday, so we thought we should give our impression.

The screening was introduced by a spokesperson from Disney, who merely repeated the “unavailable for more than fifty years” lie, which laserdisc and videocassette audiences in USA, Germany and The Netherlands who got their copies from the stores in 1981-1983 could testify to be at least inaccurate. Not to mention members of film clubs, where the film has lived a life after the general release and reprises.

The film started with what looked like a conversation between Peter Jackson and Michael Lindsay-Hogg, but obviously filmed separately and joined together. This intro was without any big revelations.

Having just missed theatrical screenings in Oslo in 1978 and in Berlin in 1981, we were happy to finally see this film on the big screen.

“John Lennon and The Beatles in their 1970 film, Let it Be – streaming May 8”

Compared to DVD boots

But since we have had it on VHS since 1984 and on DVD since DVD-R’s were introduced in the mid-nineties in several versions, and probably remember every line by heart, the film was familiar to us. Picturewise, it felt just like it has been on the best of the bootleg DVDs. You might remember the 1992 by Ron Furmanek remastered and remixed edition which, although cropped at the bottom, leaked on a bootleg DVD from His Master’s Choice. An even better bootleg DVD has been an amalgamate of the BBC2 screening from 1982 and the South-West German 1983 TV screening, both almost uncropped 16mm versions, with Furmanek’s 1992 stereo mix added. Far better than your standard bootleg DVD using the pan and scanned 35mm U.S. laserdisc version in mono with the yellow hue.

In the theatre with this restored edition, we didn’t feel the look being very different from the best DVD, although of course the images were clearer. Throughout, the sound seemed to be mono or very close stereo (we positioned ourselves in the center of the theatre) and we got no Atmos feeling at the rooftop concert, it felt more like they just turned the sound up a notch for that segment. A report from the screening in Copenhagen, which happened simultaneously to the one we attended, informed that the sound went from stereo to Dolby Atmos once the concert segment started. Of course, giving us the feel of mono in a stereo mix was what Furmanek went for in 1992 (assisted by a puzzled George Martin), and Giles Martin has in interviews informed us that this is also his new approach.

There were some slight differences in the mix, soundwise (we didn’t remember the tongue-clicking on “Two Of Us”), and at the end, the still image with the “Get Back Reprise” from Glyn Johns’ album was replaced with white text on black for the credits, the accompanying sound being a rehearsal of “Oh! Darling”, “River Rhine” and finally an instrumental which title escapes me.

George and The Beatles

At the screening, which was for members of the Norwegian Wood Beatles Fan Club, we also got reactions from original fans, who saw the film in 1970, where the Norwegian premiere was on August 31, 1970. The conclusion was, in general, that the film was a lot better when viewed now, rather than when people thought that it depicted the break-up of the Beatles. In hindsight, we know that the Beatles rolled on after the January film making and went on to produce more singles and a new album, “Abbey Road” and even had further plans for the continuation of the band. In reality, it was the introduction of Allen Klein, and the three other band members disregarding Paul McCartney’s veto against the “new manager” which ultimately proved to be the band’s demise.

Ringo and The Beatles

Comparison to Get Back

Compared to Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” documentary, essentially a documentary about the filming of the “Let It Be” documentary, the original film is a lot more dense in music, having much less dialogue and context. George quitting and getting back into the fold is not part of the film, the move from Twickenham to Apple never explained, Billy Preston never introduced and Ringo and especially George getting less screen time. These things have all been addressed in the “Get Back” series. The images in the restored “Let It Be” film was much less processed which gave it a more natural look, compared to the almost plasticky images of faces and hair in “Get Back”.

Also, the focus is more on the music, giving us more and fuller songs, including the “Suzy Parker” improvisation and the full songs from the day after the rooftop concert, “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be” and “The Long And Winding Road”. Having these three songs back to back without any dialogue in between made this a somewhat dull part of the film, we have always thought. In “Let It Be”, these songs appear in the segment before the rooftop concert, because the director felt the concert would be a fitting way to end the film.

The Walt Disney Company published a “featurette” with bits from Peter Jackson and Michael Lindsay-Hogg:

Still, Lindsay-Hogg’s film holds up, even though historically inaccurate, and we especially enjoyed that the rooftop segment had a lot less interrupted sequences from the police arrivals and the interviews with people on the street than what the “Get Back” series had. Lennon is allowed to not remember lyrics in “Don’t Let Me Down”, something which was fixed in the “Get Back” series by mixing two performances together.

The 2024 trailer:

Here’s the original 1970 trailer for your enjoyment and comparison:

The film just premiered on Disney+, so stream it from there or wait for the inevitable blu-ray/dvd. If we’re lucky, it will get a short theatrical run for the general public, which is what happened also to the rooftop episode of the “Get Back” series.


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