Living is Easy with Eyes Closed
Let’s move up a decade, shall we? Last time on Don’t Quit Your Day Job, we looked at a retrospective portrayal of the 1950s…sort of. So I thought it would be appropriate to move on up to the 1960s with Julie Taymor’s musical mystery tour, Across the Universe.
For anyone under a rock who has yet to see this movie, Across the Universe is a loose web-of-life love story set during the 1960s, narrated by means of Beatles songs. I shouldn’t say narrated, I need a stronger word of great influence – everything is Beatles – even all of the characters have names based on songs. So if you’re one of those few terrible people who hate The Beatles and still manage to exist, this is not the movie for you.
Now looking at this movie from an objective standpoint, it’s not very special: guy looking for himself finds girl, they fall in love, they fight, they lose each other, they reunite. Also the lax hippie learns about life’s cruelties and the lesbian joins the circus. Oh, and there’s confused Janis Joplin (really, Jack instead of SoCo?) in the mix who has a fling with Jimi Hendrix. I think I covered everything. It’s a good thing that I ignore objectivity, because this movie would probably kinda suck.
As cheesy as it is, I love this movie. Because it doesn’t suck. Then again, I also love The Beatles. Though some may think that Across the Universe butchered some classic songs, I beg to differ. All Julie Taymor did was put familiar songs in a different context – and in my opinion, it worked. These songs have been transformed to create a different meaning, which doesn’t mean that the original feels have gone anywhere. Just look at “Let it Be”:
True, they kept a heavy song heavy and making it a gospel only made it 1,000 times more heavy. Now if you just heard it, one would probably think, “Woah, what the hell? What did they do to ‘Let it Be’?” But when you add the context of the film (especially with the Detroit riots, oh man) we get a much more powerful, tear-jerking moment. And this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Now here’s my personal favorite, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”:
This is a great example of transforming the song. Totally different context, same words – it’s just different and there’s nothing wrong with that. Additionally, in that great way that only musicals can do, through the song the character Max expresses his internal conflict and journey.
It also doesn’t hurt that this movie is just so darn good-looking. Say what you want about Julie Taymor (okay, except anything about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, we don’t talk about that), but this lady knows what she’s doing visually (I know I’m gonna have to cover Titus sometime later on What You Should Have Watched). Taymor made this film trippy, gritty and beautiful, providing an almost synesthetic experience. Really, come for the music and stay for the substance.
There’s just so much going on in this movie, and the characters encompass nearly every element of the decade – it wasn’t all free love and rainbows, there was also wars and riots. So though, like most period-based pieces, there were many romanticized aspects, the bad stuff wasn’t left out either – there was still some reality to this acid daydream. Just tune in, turn off, drop out, drop in, switch off, switch on, and explode.