George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Directed by Martin Scorsese and with a running time of over three hours it really promises to offer an in depth rendition of Harrison's story from his early life in Liverpool, through the phenomenal success of Beatlemania and beyond including that early act of rock generosity long before the days of Band Aid et al, the Concert For Bangladesh.
Like Scorsese's 2005 portrait of Bob Dylan, No Direction Home, .Your text goes here ... Material World comes with a wealth of unseen material that includes home movies and letters, and is similarly split into two parts: basically, the 1960s and everything else. It is a massive achievement to make The Beatles' story fresh, but Scorsese evidently does so, partly by taking George's undervalued side, but mostly via an assemblage that hurtles us with visceral force from Hamburg ("the naughtiest city in the world," recalls George) through the craziness of Beatlemania.
Throughout 2008 and 2009, Scorsese alternated working between his film Shutter Island and the documentary.
Then the documentary premiered at the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool on 2 October 2011.
It was shown on HBO in two parts on 5 and 6 October 2011 in the US and Canada.
One of the moments highlighted: George evidently hearing a voice in his head saying, "The Yogis of the Himalayas" during his first acid induced head-trip and then shortly afterwards meeting Ravi Shankar, who had a profound influence over him (despite the fact he was not a yogi or from Nepal or Bhutan in the Himalayas): Of Shankar, Harrison said, "He was the first person who impressed me."
Scorsese's documentary consists of previously unseen footage and interviews with wife Olivia and daughter Dhani Harrison, Pattie Boyd, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr who provides a blunt assessment of Harrison when he says, "He was a bag of beads and a bag of anger."
George's well known travels to India brought about many cherished influences of Indian culture and spirituality to his music and consequently featured greatly in the expansion of The Beatles' sound at a critical time in their development. In fact his love affair with India never really ended as it continued on with the Maharishi and the Krishna movement, although Harrison credits Shankar with helping him reconnect to his public.
Also interviewed are Yoko Ono, George Martin, Klaus Voormann and funny man Eric Idle, who explains how in his willingness to bankroll Monty Python's The Life Of Brian by mortgaging his beloved gothic pile in Surrey. "It's still the most anyone has ever paid for a cinema ticket."
Mukunda Goswami, Eric Clapton, Astrid Kirchherr, Tom Petty and the notorious Phil Spector are other fascinating people who provide insight into Harrison's life and career.
Scorsese says he was attracted to the project because "That subject matter has never left me... The more you're in the material world, the more there is a tendency for a search for serenity and a need to not be distracted by physical elements that are around you. His music is very important to me, so I was interested in the journey that he took as an artist. The film is an exploration. We don't know. We're just feeling our way through."
It has been said the contradictions that ran through Harrison are well known: he was the multi-millionaire who preached detachment from materialism, the green gardener who loved sports cars, the spiritual seeker with a coke habit; Scorsese, a Catholic boy fascinated by gangsterdom, clearly recognises a fellow conflicted soul. It sounds like an entertaining and provocatively informative essay on one of the more fascinating musicians of the last century.
Send an email explaining why you'd like to sit through the documentary in twentyfive words or less to Culture Guide and you may just win a copy of the DVD thanks to our friends at Roadshow.