Simultaneously aired at London Southbank’s BFI to an array of VIP guests including Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Star and Yoko Ono, Scorcese’s latest rock documentary ‘Living in the Material World’ maps the quiet Beatle’s life from his time in Liverpool until his death in 2001.
Harrison’s music was expertly weaved into the narrative as one beautiful image after another captivated the audience. In collaboration with Harrison’s wife, Olivia, the deeply personal and emotional story was made possible with many never before seen home videos, photographs and letters.
With a running time of 209 minutes, the superbly directed chronicle comprehensively covers Harrison’s diverse life from a seventeen year old band member to solo artist and film producer. Numerous contributors including Eric Clapton, Astrid Kirchherr, Paul and Ringo talk openly about Harrison’s place in their lives with many still feeling the loss of his passing.
With the use of a narrator, the contents of Harrison’s personal letters opened a window into the surreal and unique experience of being a Beatle. Humour permeates the movie and the deep family-like bonds that made up the band. The interview with Ringo shows a side to the drummer many haven’t seen in recent years, one of a funny and caring friend.
After being introduced to LSD, Harrison embarked on a life journey that led him to Indian spiritualism. Through his time in India he met the only man that ever impressed him, Ravi Shankar, whose influence and music had a profound effect on Harrison and The Beatles.
Described as the band’s catalyst, Harrison allowed Paul and John to flourish as songwriters, but felt stifled when his own creativity and song writing skills were overlooked. The documentary footage shows the band members growing frustrations and the eventual breakup of The Beatles. As testament to this very public split, Harrison’s poignant and tender song ‘My Guitar Gently Weeps’ bridged the interval.
Living in the Material World is a touching journey that guides you through the many aspects of Harrison’s life and facial hair. From his solo career to his time with The Travelling Wilburys’, music continued to be a big part of his life, but spiritualism and mysticism was its foundation.
Meditation was a daily routine and even when he was violently attacked at home he tried to pacify the intruder with a mantra. Harrison was a man who lived by his deeds, putting together the first ever benefit concert of its kind in 1971 for the people of Bangladesh and without who, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian may never have been made.
Harrison understood the temporality and beauty of life and through his family, friends and his immense creativity he found a way to live it to its exaggerated fullest. It was serendipitous that he was surrounded by so many talented individuals that through archive photographs, music and film his story could be told in such a powerful way.
Scorcese’s genius was to use the material to introduce the audience to George Harrison and over three and a half intimate hours I got to know the man, his music and his passions, leaving me not only inspired but also with a real sense of loss.
FACT, Tuesday 4th October, 5pm and Sunday 9th October, 7.45pm