George Harrison was a fascinating man. He was strangely introverted, his eyes always glaring, almost sceptically, at the escapades of his three band-mates. Maybe this is what made him such a captivating choice of subject for Martin Scorsese’s documentary. He was hugely enigmatic, always, but highly intelligent and enormously talented – just by listening to his debut song-writing efforts for the Beatles, one of my all-time favourites, “Don’t Bother Me” – his worth as a musician becomes enormously clear. Living in the Material World is a tribute to Harrison, and a lengthy (4-hour long) description on his career – with a particular leaning towards his fascination with and embrace of Eastern spirituality and mysticism.
And for fans who wish to know something more about Harrison, a look into an aspect of his life which hasn’t been previously explored, there will be disappointment – but only because, as mysterious as he was throughout his life, years of frenzied research has almost led us to uncover everything there is to be found. This film is a tribute, a thing of substance, which allows pleasurable viewing, again and again, of a time come and gone. For those who’ve kept a moderate distance from the man outside of his music, the archive footage and photography that takes the audience along a near-linear journey into Harrison’s world is something to marvel at, from fragments of life in his mansion in Friar Park, to old pictures of the Beatles in their prime by Astrid Kirchherr. Then there’s the music, which becomes a significant ingredient in the film’s enjoyable mix – also emphasizing that Harrison’s solo efforts and his departure away from the Beatles legacy were things of momentous importance.
Read at Unsung Films: The Beatles Anthology
The beginning of Scorsese’s film deals primarily with George Harrison’s childhood and George and the Beatles. The title, the “material world” transcends a simple album reference and becomes better understood as the documentary slides its way into the second half. The first part finishes amid Harrison’s transformation. In an interview dug out from quite early on, he exclaims that “by having money, we found that money wasn’t the answer” – which seemingly kicks off a religious quest, fuelled by hallucinogenic drugs, meditation and Eastern music. The second part opens on the band’s final days and Harrison’s spiritual and musical endeavours post-Beatle, the recording of what is arguably his best work, free from the restrictions of the band, “All Things Must Pass” and his involvement with The Traveling Wilburys, right through to his final days.
Read at Unsung Films: Yellow Submarine
One might conclude that Harrison had been preparing for his death, and it certainly appears so. The film is an account of his seemingly endless seeking, a self-transformation. Through Scorsese’s wealth of material, the interviews, the stories told, it becomes clear that the “quiet Beatle” may have been best suited to a personal account of this magnitude. At least now, fans can try and find a way into the many issues that defined and coloured Harrison’s 58 years.
George Harrison: Living in the Material World at IMDb
George Harrison: Living in the Material World at Wikipedia
George Harrison at Wikipedia
The Beatles at Wikipedia
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb