George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011) Poster

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Life of George
Lejink4 October 2011
Of course you'd have to be a fan to really appreciate Martin Scorcese's extensive re- telling of the life and times of George Harrison but I am and so I presume was everyone at the sold out screening of the movie tonight at the Glasgow Film Theatre. More assembled than directed of course, Scorcese takes us through the highs and occasional lows of the man's life without signposting anything too obviously so that the near four-hour viewing time rarely drags (it was broken by a half-hour intermission at the showing I attended) and I found myself rapt with attention.

The film starts with a typically humorous, modest and elusive appearance by George seen between the flowers in his massive garden at Friar's Park, which mansion features so extensively in the footage shown that it should almost get a credit too. From there, Scorcese takes us on a linear journey dwelling on the major events in his life without markedly signposting the passage of time at any point, which I think helped the flow of the film. There was much archive photography and video footage which even a die-hard like me hadn't seen before, and the interviewees are well chosen and well edited, although I was surprised that say, Jeff Lynne or Michael Palin didn't get a look-in, although maybe Marty thought re. the latter that the presence of two other Pythons (Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam) was enough. The best of the interviewees are probably Gillam, Ringo and George's widow while the resemblance to his son Dhani is quite uncanny. The shock appearance of a now incarcerated Phil Spector, looking ridiculous in his "wig of the day" is controversial and prompted gales of laughter amongst the Glasgow crowd but he's actually surprisingly lucid. Yes perhaps Scorcese dwells too much on the Beatles time and omits his output from 1973 to 1988 almost totally - it was a mistake surely to not mark the sequence on Lennon's murder without playing even a snatch of "All Those Years Ago" and likewise to make no reference at all to his comeback hit single "Got My Mind Set On You" and parent album "Cloud Nine". Even so, while some may argue as to whether Harrison's own legacy deserves this Scorcese tribute in the wake of the great director's other recent homages to Dylan and the Stones, the fact that the audience I was among thought enough of what they had watched to spontaneously applaud at the end tells its own story, I think. As we near the tenth anniversary of his untimely death, I certainly enjoyed the movie and left convinced that George was a decent, not perfect man who while he may he have been the third most talented of the four Beatles, was more than worthy of this sincere and entertaining tribute.
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A passionate and clear documentary
tomgillespie200220 October 2011
Martin Scorsese has throughout his career, made several labor of love documentaries mainly on the subject of another of his passions, music. In this one his focus is on "the quiet" Beatle. Harrison was always seen as completely secondary to Lennon and McCartney. However, in this film , Scorsese shows the complexity of his character. We see his very important contribution to The Beatles, not only through his own song writing, but also the elements that essentially made many of the Lennon/McCartney compositions.

We follow him through his exploration of, particularly, Indian mysticism and philosophy, and how he integrated this into his everyday life. His contribution to the film industry is summarily gone over, from his involvement with Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1974), through to the creation of the production company, Handmade Films, that became involved in some of the great British films of the 1980's.

What is apparent throughout the film is Scorsese's clear love of the music. Using still photographs, there are many sections that fill the three and a half hours with Harrison's songs. Scorsese uses these throughout, and presents them chronologically, so that we are able to witness the evolution of Harrison's song writing.

A clear documentary made by someone passionate about the subject, the film paints a picture of a very interesting man, who lived through much change around and within himself. This is a very well researched, well constructed story, and whilst long, does not seem that way whilst viewing.
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Another one on the plus side for Scorsese, who always seems to deliver no matter what the project.
Twins6518 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I have a few quibbles I'll get to in a bit which caused me to drop my rating a few notches, but all in all, if you're still interested in "The Fabs" 40+ years after they called it quits, do check this out. The nearly 3 1/2 hour total running time will seem like it flies by in less than your average 2 hour drama, with way more good stuff in it to take with you forever.

I'll agree with the earlier commenter who wanted some sort of narration and/or screen type to fill in some of the blanks and move things along. I'd consider myself fairly knowledgeable in Beatles (and post-Beatles) lore, but I sure was stumped a couple of times:

1) what was the TV talk show (which had to be from the U.K.) and what were the circumstances surrounding George's litigation against Ringo? 2) what was the song and where was the studio shown late in the movie where Paul and George were singing on a track? 3) no current interviews from Jeff Lynne and Robert Zimmerman 4) No clip from the movie "Help" for "I Need You", in my opinion his best Beatles song behind "Something" 5) What was the final resolution of his film company, which produced a few gems among several films up through 1990?

I'd also liked to have heard a bit more from Dhani, who seems extremely grounded despite growing up in tremendous wealth and having a father who was one of the most famous men on the planet. They must have done more than just garden together, right?
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Great Tribute To Dear One
denis8886 November 2011
I was waiting for this movie so long. Now, I have watched this. I must admit - I was crying at the end of this great, deeply sympathetic, endearing, sincere, sweet eulogy to a great Master, George Harrison, who is not with us for 10 years now. When George died in 2001, I was in real shock. As if my father dies, or my best friend. Maybe, only Harrison produced such a tremendous effect on me as when he was no more, I cried a week. I was asking that year, Can anyone make a movie about him? Martin did. I loved every second of this great narration and was deeply touched by sincere confessions of Ringo, Paul, Eric, Tom, many others. When they cried, I wanted to weep too. George was really somebody special, different, enigmatic and profoundly great. Martin Scorcese made a real labor of love here, and all the rare footage and extremely great commentaries from Ravi, Idles, Gilliam or Patti and Olivia made this big movie a classic right now. Great work, A grade.
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Much better than expected
musicman-19977 November 2011
I had very low expectations- I have seen so many movies about the Beatles and they all use the same tired old video clips we've all seen a million times.

Much to my surprise, most of the material was fresh , amazing material that I'd never seen before.. with insights from Paul and Ringo that held me spellbound.. how George was introduced to John Lennon and the first song he played on top of a bus(watch the movie for the details) -just the little things you'd never know unless you saw the movie..

In my opinion, the first half was better than the second half, I think mostly because I knew how things would end... and I really, really didn't want it to end. But it did.

I miss George and John. It was a fantastic movie.
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Well, I enjoyed it, but...
neil-4764 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Martin Scorsese's 4 hour documentary on George Harrison bears very few of Scorsese's fingerprints. It is assembled from familiar Beatles footage, Anthology interview outtakes, previously unseen personal footage and photographs, and fresh interviews with certain individuals (Olivia Harrison, Clapton, and Ringo all have meaty interviews).

For the non-Beatle enthusiast, this will be overkill with a vengeance. For the casual Beatle enthusiast, it is probably just about perfect. For the die-hard, it is an experience which is rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. It is rewarding for two reasons: one, there are some lovely moments (chief among which are two anecdotes, one from Olivia and one from Ringo, which illuminate George's mordant sense of humour in the face of adversity) and, two there are some terrific musical moments which had previously been kept under wraps - indeed, I think I detected some unheard elements in Beatles mixes.

This is also one of the frustrations because, as is so often the case with this sort of project (Anthology was just the same) none of the musical items is seen through to completion - everything is cut short. Also, there are some major omissions, of which the Cloud 9 album is the most notable.

Even so, you come to the end of this feeling George's loss very keenly.
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Hagiographic, but interesting because of its subject
paul2001sw-122 March 2012
George Harrison was a creative force in the Beatles; not as much a creative force as Lennon and McCartney, but still someone who contributed to their amazing, transformative body of music in a significant way. He was also unusually interested (for a westerner) in eastern mysticism; but was not without his attachments to aspects of the material world. The man's life is told, through old and new interviews with himself and his friends, and archive footage (of which there is plenty), in Martin Scorcese's film. It's fair to say the film is somewhat hagiographic, telling an overwhelming sympathetic story: a reference to a period of heavy drug abuse is made, but not directly commented upon, and no reference is made to the Natural Law Party (whose bizarre platform in the 1992 British general election was actively supported by Harrison). And one might question how much of the story of his later life is really that interesting, or whether his apparent contradictions were the simple consequence of having too much money and time. But one thing does come over: for all his failings, he seems to have been a genuinely loved human being, in a decidedly unusual way; to combine that with the musical legacy of the Beatles is not such a bad epitaph for a life.
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Excellent stuff from Scorsese... but VERY long...
ajs-1014 November 2011
I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a fan of the Beatles, always have been and always will be. So when I heard that Martin Scorsese was making a documentary about the life of George Harrison you can guess I was a tad more than interested. Knowing it was very unlikely to air at my local cinema, I was resigned to either waiting for the DVD release or for it to air on TV in about a years' time. Imagine my surprise when those nice people at the BBC aired it over the weekend of November 12th/13th 2011! Here's a bit about it before I give you my thoughts.

Using archive footage, much of which I had never seen before, and interviews with his friends and family, we are taken through the ups and downs of the life and times of this quiet guitar player from Liverpool. From the early days of the Beatles, through to their demise in the late 60's and then on through his solo career. We hear about how he came to finance a Monty Python film, his love of Indian mysticism, his love of motorsport and the many many friends he made along the way. How he formed a little group called The Traveling Wilburys and how they brought him a little success later in his career. It goes right up to his death from cancer in 2001.

It's a very touching and heartfelt tribute to a man who had an impact on so many lives whether it be through his music or in some other way. I must say I enjoyed it very much, although at just short of three and a half hours, it is pretty long! It's beautifully put together with just about the right mix of archive footage intercut with interviews. Some of the people who appear are; several Pythons, John Lennon (archive footage), Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Georges' wife, Olivia and his son, Dhani (who really looks like him), Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Tom Petty and Phil Spector. At some stage I will definitely invest in the DVD of this documentary, it's really worth a look for any Beatles fan, or any fan of music for that matter… Just be warned that despite a 'U' certificate, there is a little swearing. Over all… Highly Recommended (but VERY long).

My score: 9.2/10 IMDb Score: 8.3/10 (based on 722 votes at the time of going to press).
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Here Comes The Sun
Bolesroor25 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
We know that Marty gets the Stones. He rehearses to the rhythm of Keith's mean guitar and cuts to Mick's menacing vocals. But does he get The Beatles?

And not just any Beatle, but the Quiet One?

This might not seem like a match made in cinematic heaven, but "Living In The Material World" is white-hot with the brilliance of two eternal flames: George Harrison & Martin Scorsese. On the surface we learn about George as a man, as a human, as a bastard, as a mystical observer, and eventual fanatic. We see how he grew up, through and around the Greatest Band of All-Time, experiencing the super-group through the eyes of its most common member. He is the Henry Hill of The Beatles.

George picks up a guitar and the rest is future. The film is bursting with unseen footage & audio, and there is no narrator reporting statistics or time lost dwelling on lawsuits or coincidence. This is the no-bullshit view of the world that George had, and we enter his head as easily as he picks up a guitar and starts to play.

Scorsese doesn't fade songs out here, he chops them when they're finished... it's out of respect for an artist who was more interested in funding the Pythons' subversive comedy than dancing on-stage in tights. This is a documentary with a heartbeat... the perfect reflection of its subject. No apologies, no glorification... just f--king George.

Someone is smiling.

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A few clarifications
kdhymes6 May 2012
I can't claim direct knowledge of the topics addressed by many reviewers here, but I can say that I have read just about every significant book published about The Beatles in general, and Harrison in particular. I totally understand the issues people express about this film: long without being either balanced or comprehensive; curiously silent on some key events (perhaps Olivia Harrison's wishes are a factor here?); missing some key points of view (though getting Dylan, for example, to talk about anything in a useful way is notoriously difficult). But I feel I must address a couple of points raised.

1. Re: Concert for Bangladesh. The amount raised by the concert itself was about a quarter of a million dollars. Sales of the iterations of the album and the movie raised about 12 million, to be administered by UNICEF. The money DID go to refugee relief, BUT was delayed by 11 years because of the failure of organizers to apply for tax-exempt status. So... bad planning, but not a scam or a failure.

2. Re: Harrison's relative contribution to the Beatles. On the one hand, the evidence is quite clear that Ringo was far more crucial to the Beatles sound in the studio than Harrison - the band simply did not function well with any other drummer (rumors of McCartney sitting in are based on photos, not the meticulous records kept by Abbey Road; when Ringo quit for 6 weeks in 1968, numerous replacements including Ginger Baker were tried, and no one was able to provide the subtle and generous and dare I say feminine approach that the Beatles suddenly discovered was a key ingredient in their process, causing them to beg for his return). Harrison was great at coming up with carefully planned, often double-tracked parts, which added beauty and flavor at a higher level than McCartney or Lennon could offer (the 15 seconds or so of Harrison on Getting Better, e.g., truly makes the recording). But he was an indifferent electric rhythm guitar player in my opinion. His songs were only occasionally as good as L&M's, however there is no denying the fact, attested to by Martin, Parsons, and others, that Harrison got short shrift in studio time to realize his ideas.

It is essential to keep in mind that L&M were given INCREDIBLE amounts of time for the era, virtually unlimited takes after 1965, to get the basic tracks right, and then to try dozens of approaches to the sweetening and vocals. Harrison was never given this opportunity until the last two real albums produced (White Album and Abbey Road), and suddenly his work shows a massive uptick in quality, both of writing and execution (Savoy Truffle, Piggies, Something, Long Long Long, Here Comes the Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps - all of these outclass his earlier work by miles). It can't be a coincidence that once the Beatles essentially stopped being a team and became each others' session players, Harrison flourished. Also worth noting that he produced the first truly satisfying album as a solo artist, All Things Must Pass - overly long, but a big hit and a good listen, using in part songs he had been carrying around for a few years.

With regard to the contradictions between his lifestyle and his purported spiritual values - in what way is this unusual or even notable? Seems like standard operating procedure for entertainment celebrities to either need a frame of self-justification, or to have trouble avoiding the temptations of riches, or both.

I obviously appreciate Harrison's work, but I'm not an uncritical fan - his "middle period" of solo work is pretty awful, just a few songs are keepers; and even Cloud Nine is really a few good songs surrounded by oddly paced, indifferently written material. His last album, Brainwashed, is weird but really interesting, and at a higher level lyrically than anything he had done since All Things Must Pass.

He was who he was: not a genius on the level of L&M, but an ingredient in their recorded output that would be sorely missed were we somehow able to remove it. And there is an argument that his presence and his influence enriched the Beatles philosophically, lyrically and musically. They were very competitive: if George was spiritual, well by jove they were going to be spiritual too. A thin veneer of spirituality perhaps, on lives that were primarily about fame and money and art, but again an ingredient that, if not present, would have made the Beatles a very different band.
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a fascinating, engrossing, insightful, exhaustively researched and revealing documentary
gregking416 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
From Oscar winning director Martin Scorsese comes this epic, superbly crafted documentary exploring the personal and professional life, times and musical legacy of former Beatle George Harrison, who died in 2001. The youngest of the Beatles, Harrison's own talents as a guitarist and songwriter were often overshadowed by Lennon and McCartney. It was only after the band split up that his abilities were recognised. Even Frank Sinatra called Harrison's Something one of the greatest love songs written. As with No Direction Home, his epic 208-minute 2005 documentary about Bob Dylan, Scorsese's Living In The Material World is a revealing, comprehensive portrait of Harrison, and is essential viewing for fans. The film is also suffused with an obvious love for Harrison and his music, and there are plenty of familiar tunes sprinkled throughout the documentary. Indeed, it is easy to forget how many wonderful songs Harrison actually wrote. The film has been painstaking researched. Scorsese draws upon a wealth of photographs, rarely seen archival footage, home videos, diary entries, and interviews to round out this picture of a gentle, humble, artistic man eternally searching for inner peace. There is no voice over narration. Rather, the intimate biographical details are teased out through a series of extensive, intimate interviews with Harrison himself, his wife of thirty years Olivia and his son Dhani. There are also wonderful anecdotes from the likes of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Terry Gilliam, and famed record producer Phil Spector, recorded before his arrest and well publicised murder trial. What emerges is a picture of a self-effacing man, a consummate professional who approached everything he did with passion. There is plenty of information during the first part about the Beatles and their early years in the red light district of Berlin at the start of the 60's, the overwhelming success of the band, and the creative tensions that eventually led to the split. The second part of the film looks in detail at Harrison's fascination with Indian mysticism and spirituality, and the religious and spiritual transformation which would consume him in later years and shape much of his direction. There is plenty of detail about his post-Beatles solo career, his reclusive nature, his collaborations with Ravi Shankar, and the Concert for Bangladesh which was the first celebrity organised star studded benefit concert. The film even looks at his involvement in the film industry through Handmade Films, the production company he set up to make films that he wanted to see. Through this company Harrison produced some of the classics of British cinema, including Life Of Brian, cult classic Withnail And I, and The Long Good Friday. The film is so comprehensive that it even covers the time when Harrison was stabbed while fighting off a home invader just a couple of years before his death. However, Scorsese brushes over his drug use and his womanising, although the romantic triangle between himself, his first wife Patti and Eric Clapton is explored. It is a little surprising that there is not even a brief mention of the protracted legal proceedings over his song My Sweet Lord. Like all good documentaries, Living In The Material World transcends its subject matter and has broad appeal, even to those who are not fans of Harrison or his music. Don't be daunted by the 208-minute running time either. Living In The Material World is such a fascinating, engrossing, insightful, exhaustively researched and revealing documentary that you are not conscious of the length or the passing of time.
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Very Good Look at a Man Wanting to Find What All Life Has to Offer
Michael_Elliott7 October 2011
George Harrison: Living in a Material World (2011)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Considering some of the movies that director Martin Scorsese has made you'd think that he'd be the wrong person to tell the life story of George Harrison but after viewing this mammoth documentary it's easy to see why the two went together. This documentary runs 203-mintues so it's extremely wrong but it covers just about everything you'd want to know about Harrison. We start off with his brothers talking about what type of kid he was and then we move to his audition for what would become The Beatles. From here we see the bands rise and fall as well as how Harrison decided to go solo with All Things Must Pass. He experiments with drugs are well documentary as is the influence Indian music had on him. The Bangladesh concert, his Traveling Wilburys days and his comeback are also discussed before we get to the 1999 home invasion attack as well as his fight with cancer. Among those interviewed are Harrison's widow Olivia, Terry Gilliam, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Eric Idle, George Martin, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Ravi Shankar and Phil Spector among many others. With such a long running time I went into the film a little worried that there was just going to be too much but I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the film went by as it certainly doesn't feel over three hours. What works so well is that there's a clear direction in all the material and it appears that Scorsese wanted to get across that Harrison was constantly searching for something that he could probably only find in death. It's clear from those interviewed that Harrison wanted to experience as much as he can and there's a lot of talk about him preparing himself for death and he wanting to be prepared for when he eventually left his body. I found all of this to be quite fascinating and the real master work from Scorsese comes towards the very end. We get a pretty disturbing story of Harrison being attacked in his home, which his widow tells in such a way that you can't help but feel creeped out. Everyone knows that Harrison did eventually die from cancer but I won't ruin how this film ends but lets just say that it's quite powerful. I think the weakest part of the film is some of the stuff dealing with The Beatles simply because we've seen it so many times before. The first part of the film runs 94-minutes and goes up to just before the Beatles broke up. Part two clocks in just under two-hours and goes from the break-up to Harrison's death and I think this portion of the documentary is the best. Either way, fans are certainly going to enjoy all the concert footage, rare photos, the interviews and of course Harrison gets to speak his own words with some old interviews.
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an in-depth film about an elusive but pleasant spirit
Quinoa198429 December 2011
Why did Martin Scorsese decide to make a film about George Harrison? Why did he decide to make a film about the Dalai Lama? Or The Age of Innocence? While this is another documentary about a rock-star icon, following along from Scorsese's own The Last Waltz, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and Shine a Light, it's closest in style and tone to the Dylan doc, as a profile of a man of his time and how he lived through it.

Unlike Dylan, who is a mystery even to the most curious of fans (or just one of the more obnoxious, depends how you look at it), George Harrison seems to be, from accounts and interviews, to be a man of spiritual and artistic integrity who had various concerns and ideas, and he expressed them throughout his life - or, if not in the recording studio or as a producer of films, then with his garden. One may not be able to find the link between the sarcastic (if 'quiet') kid from A Hard Day's Night with an old man in a garden (or for that matter the old man having to defend his life against a burglar, as he did, in 1999), but it's all here.

I may not have found Harrison quite as enlightening as Bob Dylan, but should he be? Maybe in his own simple way though Scorsese finds a more direct path or personal link to him through the spiritual side. Harrison was someone who found through the Maharishi, Indian music, transcendental meditation, some kind of path through the noise of Western civilization.

The clash is what's interesting here, and Scorsese knows it too. While the director is fascinated with BIG emotions in his films (see anything with De Niro for more on that), he's also fascinated how someone operates with a calm demeanor on the surface burning with emotion underneath. Harrison was the guitarist for the Beatles and then when the break-up happened, he had to break-off and find another way. He was still a pop star, and his first solo album, the great 'All Things Must Pass' went into the top ten of the charts. But how did he reconcile a working class British-Liverpool upbringing with the teachings of Haria Krishna?

Of course, the first hour of this massive three 1/2 hour films are dedicated to him and the Beatles, and it's wonderful to see the footage, hear the songs, find out some details about the songs Harrison wrote for the group (i.e. the first song he ever wrote, 'If I Needed Someone'). Then the second part is about the spiritual search, or what's close to it, mixed with the start of the solo career (and of course some of the famous tales of romantic highs and lows via Patti and Eric Clapton are included).

There's a section for the film-part of his career, where as a man of faith, though not exactly (it's complicated you see) he helped pay "the most ever anyone's paid for a movie ticket" for Monty Python's Life of Brian. And then about his gardening, his second wife Olivia (and - kind of a shock to me - the candor which Olivia, who was a producer on the film and wrote the book spin-off of the film, talks about Harrison's infidelities in their marriage, something I really admired), and other things like friendships, the burglary in 1999, and his untimely passing from cancer.

It wouldn't be a Scorsese movie without music, and hey, it's George Harrison so there's lots of good stuff here (sadly, for me, no 'I Got My Mind Set on You'), and there's the director via editor David Tedeschi's marvelous way of navigating the story with music. Watch the opening and how 'All Things Must Pass' goes over the WW2 footage, then mixed in with some of the more traditional music of the 1940's period to see some of the brilliance with which Scorsese does this. And the interviews are mostly illuminating and nice, once or twice piling on the adulation (perhaps as one might expect) while still giving some moments for the quirks Harrison had - such as a story Tom Petty tells about ukuleles - and some of his flaws as a man and artist.

I'm not sure if for fans the film will shine a whole lot of new light, though for newcomers it should provide the bulk of know-how. What's great about the film ultimately is the thread of the story, and how the filmmaker is not afraid to jump around, or jump ahead, and expect the audience to keep up. It's not as straight-thru as, say, The Beatles Anthology. We're seeing a life in various dimensions, time-spans, and it's as if not more post-modern than the Dylan doc. It's joyous, meditative, somber, happy, funny, a little daft and a little less than perfect. I can't wait to revisit the life and work.
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golly414 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Just sat through the cinema screening tonight (4th October 2011). First of all, it's a really well put together piece - it basically covers every facet of Harrison's life in great detail - there's hardly any aspect of his career that's not mentioned.

The film starts off brilliantly with pictures of 1940s wartime with the soundtrack of All Things Must Pass. It's a great start and sets the scene of what's to come. There's also some really cool, previously unseen footage of Harrison and McCartney signing the legal papers (looks like circa '71 judging by McCartney's hair) and there's also a film of the early Beatles gigging at some sort of church hall (circa '59).

The Beatles years are dealt with brilliantly - great insights from Kircherr and Voorman about the Hamburg days and the film skips nicely along through '63 - '67 inter-cut with great interviews and music. The '67 - '70 years are also dealt with really well, dealing with Pepper, White Album and the eventual breakup. Some of McCartney and Starr's interviews are really insightful.

The post Beatles years are dealt with in detail - from All Things Must Pass, the Concert for Bangladesh, Dark Horse tour, Life of Brian, Wilbury's and so on. The last twenty minutes or so is perhaps the best - it manages to eclipse Harrison's final years really well with some emotional words from those closest to him.

There's some nice touches - Scorsese has the habit of playing a Harrison tune and then cutting it short when you least expect it. The other contributions are also fantastic - Clapton, Idle, Martin, Petty and Jackie Stewart, to name a few.

Annoyingly, something that isn't even mentioned, is the 'He's So Fine/My Sweet Lord' plagiarism lawsuit. Seen as this was a big deal in Harrison's life, it seems really bizarre it wasn't included. Also, there weren't any Lennon interviews of him talking about Harrison - this would have been a nice addition. Another omission was any mention of his Cloud Nine album. If you're making a documentary that's three and a half hours long, you'd think these sorts of things would have been included.

All in all, it's a great documentary. It felt very long, in the cinema, even with a break, but I don't see this as a negative at all - the film benefits from it. It'll probably suit watching on DVD more - in summary, a great documentary, a truly fitting tribute to George Harrison. And all I want to do now is play his records...
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sokeep8 October 2011
Let me state this from the off: I've got a lot of respect for Martin Scorsese. And I'm a big George Harrison fan.

But I was so bored of this documentary that I had to leave it an hour and a half through.

The biggest problem? There was no narrative. No flow. You're given no over-arching journey or picture at all, and no purpose or drive to what unfolds. It was assumed you knew the story anyway, and so it was simply ignored (I can't imagine how confusing someone unfamiliar with the Beatles would've found the section about Astrid Kirchherr and their Hamburg days. Even to fans like myself, it was told in a way that was insubstantial and unclear) (That you're told Stuart Sutcliffe's death was difficult before you've even been introduced to him or told his relation to anyone else is one example of this).

The story was told in isolated blocks - ten minutes of George and the Beatles coping with screaming fans and hotel rooms. Followed by ten minutes of them entering the studio. - and it didn't work. Not only did it disconnect things that were actually intimately entwined, but it removed any sense of development. Things were presented in a roughly chronological way, but not such that any of it felt meaningful. "This, and then This" rather than "This, and therefore This".

It was as though someone had made two checklists, one of "Events" and the other of "Footage", and they just indiscriminately filed all of the latter into the arbitrary structure of the former.

Some of the cuts also stood out (never a good sign for a cut anyway) as really poorly done - music stopping abruptly as we cut to a talking head, or a scene with an older George inexplicably squashed in amongst something utterly different (Did it cast those shots in a different light? Reframe the meaning, recast the subject? No.)

Another real disappointment was the failure of the documentary to convey any atmosphere, sense of place or sense of character. Who was George Harrison? What were his relationships like? Nothing came across. Or how about the places and the mood of their existence, be it in hotels, or the studio, or during his childhood or in India or...again, the documentary was empty, vacant, frustrating. This was partly due to the talking heads, who didn't offer any insights or anecdotes beyond their own self-importance (Eric Clapton calling himself a "lone wolf" was inadvertently hilarious though), but also due to the disconnected, inexpressive editing.

My overriding thought throughout was "Man, this is really poorly done". I didn't expect that, I was entering this film full of excitement. But after an hour and a half of time and again catching myself saying it, I decided enough was enough. A real disappointment; one of the messiest, dullest, directionless documentaries I've seen in a long time. The subject matter deserves a much better, more sensitive, meaningful treatment.
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Beautiful Garden
italo50512 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
may seems like a sad song to you, a song about a man that laments everything. But into looking through George Harrison's soulful deep dark stare, I realize the man was lamenting what he had become and the man he could potentially be, while everyone around him told him he should be one way or another. He was a very different Beatle. He was not as big as John Lennon or Paul Mc Cartney but he was a little hidden talent who worked behind the scenes more than anything, he was the man behind the curtains who liked to look from aside, or look at the Beatles as an outsider, very self conscious of where his life was headed but having a strong sense of self, a strong sense of what he wanted his music to carry: this sweet, spiritual side of him that could not be contained inside this phenomenon that was the Beatles.

In the opening scenes of Living in the Material World, the new HBO documentary directed by Martin Scorsese we take an unusual look at the most enigmatic Beatle, the one that was not always in front of the newscasts, the reporters, he was no newspaper headlines material as John and Paul were which helped him create his own sound and his own songs that graced some of the Beatles albums such as Revolver's Taxman, White Album's While My Guitar Gently Weeps or Abbey Road's Something and Here Comes The Sun which became some of The Beatles' most recognizable and beloved songs of their careers. We also meet a man who became more spiritual and embraced Indian culture and Hinduism with his friend and sitar player Ravi Shankar, who appears in the documentary numerous times and was such an influence in both his music and his own life gave a complete twist. He saw something deeper than any of the Beatles had, something that he was searching for, something so unique and exquisite that he spent many hours listening to Ravi play his sitar and teaching him the techniques to perfect the art.

George Harrison was like a sponge absorbing every little essence he could from Ravi and the Indian culture that he even introduced some of this music into The Beatles with songs like The Inner Light, Revolver's Love You To and Tomorrow Never Knows and the incredibly ahead of its time Sgt. Pepper's Within You Without You which, in my opinion, brought The Beatles to a status that had never achieved before. At least first time I heard Within You Without You I thought to myself: what does it mean? How does it come into play into my life? It didn't need translation, it transcended everything and the answer was always there: look inside yourself and there you will find peace, you didn't need no temple, no clergy, no middle man: just you and God.

George Harrison was idolized by the hippie movement of the 60's which in this documentary he admittedly despised, one weekend he spent with them was all he needed to realize it was not what he was looking for, this world of drugs, peace and love was not what he was searching for and he knew he had to meditate more as to where he wanted to go spiritually and artistically.

It's funny that he said that in this documentary himself since I thought for the longest time that he was a hippie himself, a man who took to drugs and experimented with a sitar and period, that was it. In Living In The Material World I have re-discovered why I've always loved The Beatles so much: they're not just four lads from Liverpool that created the best singles of the 60's and were musically talented but now also I see a side of them I hadn't really come to think about before.

There was something very interesting that was said during this doc, he basically says for a man that has everything, they handed him anything he wished for, anything he ever wanted, anything within his reach he could have but if you have emptiness in your heart and soul then you're still not a rich person and you cannot take it with you. In life everything we own that is material is worth nothing when we leave our bodies and what George Harrison did constantly was to prepare himself mentally and spiritually for that moment in which he had to leave his body for his next adventure. I'm sure that wherever he is, he's playing his sitar contemplating how much he'd accomplished, how much he's left behind: his legacy, his family, his garden. Boy, was he ever so proud of that garden.
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Almost excessively long, but worth a watch
Jeremy_Urquhart24 September 2017
So yeah, this thing's really, really long. Definitely longer than it needs to be, but at the same time, it makes the film stand out, at least. Differentiates itself from the pack for me, I guess, given I've never personally watched a music documentary this long.

George Harrison was always the most mysterious, spiritual of all The Beatles, so if a nearly 3 and a half hour documentary had to be made about one of them, that's a fairly good reason to, I suppose. About half of the film here will be very familiar to most Beatles fans, as the first half largely focuses on one of the biggest music phenomenons of all time. Thankfully, the extra focus on George Harrison during the film's first half means this familiar story does not feel entirely stale or redundant.

The second half is less straight forward and more interesting too, I think, focusing on George Harrison's solo career and post-Beatles endeavors. However, it's also somewhat inconsistent. I found certain sections moving and engrossing, whilst feeling that some other sections dragged on longer than needed.

One final minor complaint would be what I thought was some dodgy editing in parts. Often when they played a Beatles or George Harrison song, the music would cut off abruptly when it transitioned to an interview or someone talking about said song. I found it jarring every time this happened, and kept wondering whether it was some strange stylistic choice that I just wasn't getting.

Anyway, if I'm sounding overly negative, I'm sorry. I shouldn't be, because this was still pretty good, and I've certainly experienced many other movies of a similar length that did feel longer than this. I guess it might be a little disappointing, considering this is one of the best directors of all time (Scorsese) making a documentary on a member of one of the greatest bands of all time. Still, it's good, all things considered. Certainly recommended, just maybe lower your expectations a tad, and definitely don't feel like you have to watch the whole thing in one go either.
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This wonderful documentary is a film not to be missed.
Mobithailand25 April 2016
I will always go out of my way to see the work of certain actors and directors – a select few, who, in my opinion, can do no wrong. I will always watch an Al Pacino or a De Niro film – even if it is a bad one, as by their very presence, they will somehow drag it out of the mundane and make it a pleasurable experience.

One of my favourite directors is Martin Scorsese and to me, he can do no wrong, ever since I saw Taxi Driver all those years ago. Since then, he has followed up with masterpieces such as Goodfellas, Casino and Gangs of New York. Recently, his production and directorial contributions to the TV series, Boardwalk Empire has elevated it to the echelons of all time TV greats, such as The Sopranos. Scorsese also has also directed a number of notable documentaries through the years, almost always connected in some way to his love of music and music performers. His latest, about the life of the Beatle George Harrison, is a feast for the eyes.

To Beatles fans, lovers of popular music, or just someone interested in the life and times of this fascinating and talented man, this documentary is a 'must see'. I sat down to watch it at around 10 p.m and sat transfixed, hardly realising that the clock was almost at the hour of 2 a.m by the time the final credits rolled down the screen – along with a few tears rolling down my cheeks… There is no narrator - no quoting of dates or facts - just a cinematic account of the life of George, from his earliest days in the Beatles right up to the day of his death from cancer in 2001. The story is 'told' through mainly previously unseen footage and magical interviews with so many friends and family who knew him and lived through the same life and times as he did. I have a new respect for Paul and Ringo who clearly gave very honest, heartfelt and sometimes surprisingly vulnerable accounts of themselves and their relationships with George and their times with him – both good and bad. There many others; Eric Clapton, John Lennon, both of George's wives, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Tom Petty, Phil Spector, Yoko Ono, Jackie Stewart and so many more. Some of these people were interviewed especially for the film and other interviews were taken from archive footage, much of it never seen before.

At the top of the list of interviewees is George himself, speaking from his very early Beatle days, almost up to the time of his death. George was a fascinating man who lived a very full life, from his music, to his film production, to his love of cars, to garden design and to his almost fanatical involvement in Indian mysticism and trans-meditation. Through the years, this quiet but highly charismatic person acquired an incredible array of devoted friends from all walks of life. I particularly loved the videos of the impromptu sessions shot at Bob Dylan's home recording studio in New York when members of the 'Travelling Wilburys', (George, Tom petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison), collaborated on a new song. It is pure magic. But there again, there are so many magical moments. This wonderful documentary is a film not to be missed.
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aki7519 October 2011
I was very disappointed by this doco. Being a Scorsese film I had high hopes, but I was let down. It felt very jumbled, particularly the beginning where it just kept chopping and changing from one piece of footage to the next, and one person to the next. It did get better as it went along thankfully. I'd say Part 2 was better than Part 1.

I like George Harrison, but I didn't know enough about him to really keep track on who a few of the people were in the film. I would have been nice for them to have been introduced somehow. It just seemed like the doco was bits of stuff just stuck together and wasn't overly coherent. Lennon's death and Harrison's reaction to it was barely touched on. It was quite all quite clinical and unmoving.

If you want to see a documentary done very well, see SENNA. Living in a Material World pales in comparison. After watching Senna I was speechless for about an hour and it has effected me ever since. Living in Material World? Well it didn't even really effect me while watching it. While leaving this movie I wished that Senna had gone for the same length as this movie and that Living in a Material World had gone for less than 2.

Living in the Material World is not a fitting tribute to a great man.
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Convoluted and confused assemblage of found 'footage'
keenast26 October 2011
So Mr. Scorsese gets hired to do 'the' documentary on George Harrison a man with an extremely interesting and complex personality. What comes out of that is an utterly confusing miss-mash of footage that seems to have been (pre) selected George Harrison's wife, some interviews that are mostly empty and pretty boring, and some historical footage. There is no 'story' told here. I'm pretty well versed with the Beatles and with George Harrison's history and got lost a number of times because of unexplained time jumps and folks showing up of which we don't know their names or why they even show up.

What the hell is it with Terry Gilliam and his cohorts that they're worth 10 minutes of bla-bla that has nothing to do with George. Friends of Mr. Scorsese?

Who managed to 'direct' those immensely empty interviews? You've got Geroge's son and that's what Mr. Scorsese got out of him? Absolutely uninteresting crumbles of thoughts.

Who hired those talented 'cinematographers' who managed to photograph all those persons in the most boring surroundings with the fugliest lighting imaginable?

Why would not one try to shed some light unto the discrepancy between George's 'my sweet lord' holiness and his constant drug (ab)use? Anything, just anything that would make one get closer to his soul and his character?

And on and on - it's a terribly missed opportunity but I'm sure Mr. Scorsese was well paid for this hack job.

Resume: some interesting historical footage - but all in all 'uninspired' to say it in a kind way.
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Intriguing and long - but non too critical - look at the quiet Beatle.
Pedro_H14 November 2011
The central problem with documentaries is that they are - at best - when they surprise, intrigue or even shock. The story of The Beatles is only behind the story of Jesus in being constantly re-told.

Even with the novelty of the focus being on George Harrison (for a change) you come with a heavy heart: knowing that you are, probably, going to see a lot of familiar film stock, hear a lot of familiar songs and yawn through a lot of misty-eyed wasn't-he-great backslapping from the great and the good.

Thankfully Martin Scorsese knows all this and - at least - tries to get original and unseen material, original interviews (but no Dylan or Jeff Lynne - why?) and dabbles with unorthodox approaches, including home movies. The opening and closing images (George in his beloved garden) being the most striking.

(The balance he gets totally wrong - his son Dhani gets so little interview time for a start.)

This clearly isn't going to be the best doc about Harrison in a hundred years time. It is aimed at me - the all-too-knowing viewer who has lived it though the papers, TV and even cinema. To enjoy this (and even make sense of it) you have to be able to fill in the many blanks yourself.

Major bombshells are avoided. Sometimes for no reason. The My Sweet Lord plagiarism case (he lost) is not even mentioned once! The farce of the Concert for Bangladesh which saw not one penny go to those in immediate need (here the film is deceptive to the point of being misleading!) The media comments about after hearing about Lennon's murder only to go back to sleep!

People loved this man. As Madonna said, "there isn't a bad bone in him." Well there was a few small ones. He took a lot of hard drugs (probably explaining his pasty-faced shambling stage performances glimpsed here) and he smoked very heavily. He also dosed unknowing people with acid. He cheated on his second wife (she says so herself in highly rehearsed code) and was strange (maybe greedy) with money. Who else goes in to tax exile when fighting cancer?

(How many mansions and exotic holidays can anybody want?)

He didn't actually write much, but it was usually pretty good when he did. Some of my favourite Beatles tracks are his, but the constant claims about "being squeezed out of the albums" has never borne much examination. When it was brilliant it got on. The mediocre stuff was junked. Lennon and Macca were the only ones allowed so-so material.

As a guitarist, not very good. OK on a good day. Here they give half-hearted praise about his slide work. Pete Townsend said (on hearing the tracks without the vocals) how ropey and out-of-tune they often sounded. Next to (best mate) Clapton he sounded like a guy playing in a pub. Not that he actually pretended otherwise.

I simply don't understand eastern mysticism or like eastern music. That is probably my ignorance/loss. However it clearly involves a lot of sitting on bottoms trying to feel good about yourself. Mansions, motor racing and electric guitars - his other three clear loves - are built by people who don't do a lot of these things. You know something, the material world has more going for it than these orange-clad layabouts would acknowledge.
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Meet The Late George Harrison
strong-122-47888510 March 2017
(*George Harrison quote*) - "Give me love. Give me peace on Earth."

Professionally directed by acclaimed film-maker, Martin Scorsese - "Living In the Material World" is certainly an informative and in-depth production that closely examines the public/private life of renowned musician, George Harrison, and his role as a productive member of the Fab Four (aka. The Beatles).

Featuring countless stills and excellent archival footage, along with interviews with relatives and fellow musicians (as well as interviews with George, himself) - "Living In the Material World" is definitely a first-rate celebrity documentary that reveals to the viewer so much more about the real George Harrison (known as the "quiet" Beatle) than, at first, meets the eye.

This 2-disc set has a running time of approximately 3 hours.

*Note* - On November 29, 2001 - George Harrison (58 at the time) died from throat cancer.
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Fascinating Stuff
richy-782-44125913 July 2015
Stumbled onto the second part of this documentary and enjoyed it so much, I had to go looking for part 1. Love the way it was done with stories told through film clips of George himself and others in his life. Really personal insights into the man. I didn't realize how many great songs he had written. I don't consider myself spiritual at all, but found his philosophies and ideas to be extremely interesting. So many great photos and clips of him and all the Beatles. Mesmerizing to see the surreal life they lived, and very touching moments. I didn't know much at all about the quiet Beatle but, even though he had drug problems, I admire him greatly now. What an interesting guy who made such a mark on the world.
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Excellent and thorough.
Weird_and_Proud12 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Martin Scorsese has put together a beautiful documentary tracing the life of the most underrated member of the Beatle's, George Harrison. With a run time of over three and half hours, Scorsese is able to explore the various layers that went towards forming Harrison's absolute identity. Through the use of personal letters, pictures, home-videos, and never-before-seen interviews, the viewer is given the rare opportunity of discovering Harrison beyond The Beatles.

The documentary is essentially divided into two parts, the first of which follows the formation and success of The Beatles. Whilst the second focuses on Harrisons spiritual journey to find meaning beyond the capitalist world he found himself trapped in.

Through the careful selection and juxtaposition of archival footage and documents, Scorsese emphasises the bittersweet realities of The Beatles rise to fame. Unfolding the story of four naïve British lads torn between childish excitement at their growing success, and apprehension towards the zealous fan-base it gained them. This clash of ideals is exemplified by Harrison in a letter to his parents: "Dear Mum and Dad – The shows have been going great with everyone going potty…everywhere we go we have about 20 police on motorbikes escorting us".

The fervent behaviour of the fans escalated to the point that all four Beatles decided it was best to avoid any public outings. Frustrated by the confinement fame had enforced on him, Harrison became disillusioned by the material world, and seemed to experience a displacement of the self. In an interview he stated: "you see yourself in the paper but don't actually realise it's you".

This displacement of identity led Harrison to pursue a spiritual path in the hopes of attaining the meaning of life through philosophy. Under Guru Ravi Shankar, Harrison learned to use Indian spiritual music to become one with a greater philosophical being. His friendship with Ravi also led Harrison to fund and organise the first ever benefit concert: The Concert for Bangladesh, which raised funds for refugees from East Pakistan following the 1970 Bhola Cyclone.

Scorsese also uses the documentary as a medium through which Harrisons song writing credentials can be measured against the Lennon/McCartney partnership. "George was a loner and had to work on his own" states George Martin (Producer of four of The Beatles original five albums).It was therefore inevitable that Harrison would get lost in the shadows of the superpower that was the Lenon/McCartney writing team. Scorsese traces the anatomy of Harrisons body of (solo) work, highlighting in particular their spiritual origins. Whilst Lennon/McCartney's work exemplified masterful popular music, Harrison's engaged with his spirituality, and search for meaning in life. Scorsese incorporation of Harrison's solo work in the documentary illustrates the importance it holds to understanding his psyche.

Scorsese's documentary excels in exposing hidden dimensions of Harrisons life and personality; from his love triangle with Pattie Boyd, and Eric Clapton, to his financial funding of Monty Python. Bringing together a multitude of Harrisons professional and personal acquaintances (including Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Terry Gilliam, and Eric Idle), and artifacts from his personal archive, Scorsese creates a colourful mosaic capturing the diversity that constructed George Harrisons life, and personality.
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Good overview
sergelamarche30 April 2018
The tidbits about the Beatles are always interesting. Not just because the Beatles were so popular and ground breaking but also because it's unusual lives. Here, Scorsese assembled quite the cast to retell stories about George to fill two films. And still there are some blanks. Fun and enlightening.
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