George Harrison: Living in the Material World – review

Martin Scorsese's latest labour of love charts the multi-faceted life of George Harrison to insightful effect, writes Philip French

Like Louis Malle in France and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Michael Apted in Britain, Martin Scorsese has balanced a fruitful career that involves alternating between feature films and documentaries, most of the latter labours of love, and he's kept it up for 40 years. Some of the best documentaries are about popular music, most notably The Last Waltz on Robbie Robertson and the Band, the films on the blues and Bob Dylan, and Shine a Light, his account of a Rolling Stones concert. His latest, getting a very brief but fairly broad theatrical showing (before its DVD and Blu-ray release), is an excellent movie throwing new light on the so-called "quiet Beatle". Despite being co-produced by Harrison's widow, it's well this side of hagiography, and held my unflagging attention for three and a half hours.

Drawing on archive footage, family photo albums, home movies and new interviews (with, among many others, Astrid Kirchherr, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Martin, Phil Spector, Terry Gilliam, Jackie Stewart, Pattie Boyd and Olivia Harrison), it covers a fascinating life from growing up in a Liverpool two-up-two-down back-to-back terrace house to living in a remarkable mansion in the home counties. The heady decade with the Beatles is well covered and his remarkable contribution as a musician to the band is properly noted. But his subsequent career as a solo artist, movie impresario and philanthropist is treated in equal depth, and a portrait emerges of a complex, deeply divided, self-questioning man torn between, or seeking to reconcile, the equally seductive demands of the spirit and the harsh material world. I was left with a greater understanding and appreciation of his work.


Philip French

The GuardianTramp

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