Monday, February 18, 2008

Across the Universe

One of my favorite films of the year so far is definitely Across the Universe.  Surprisingly enough, I listened to the soundtrack for the film for a month before I saw the picture.  I fell in love with the creative covers for the Beatles' songs.  However the feeling and emotion of the film is even more a part of the music.  You can really only watch and listen to both.

Director Julie Taymor has perhaps never taken on such a monumental film production before.  Known only for this film and the Oscar-winning Frida (six nominations and two wins).  Across the Universe was no doubt a risk for the talented director, but she obviously had no fear in pushing the boundaries.  Her grasp and execution of the legendary music and Sixties era has never been presented in such an eccentric and emotional way.  I think she told a beautiful story, but what really stands out is her display of the era.  She managed to include several aspects of the Sixties:  the Vietnam war, the psychedelic atmosphere, and even the racial riots.  Her detail to sets, costumes, and locations makes the era come alive.

Nominated this year for only Best Costume Design, I feel this film deserved more recognition in the musical and directing areas.  However, the legendary costume designerAlbert Wolsky joining the crew did magnify the splendid screen presence of each character.  He craftily presented the era of the sixties and added to the personality of each character with his elaborate hippie attire.  

Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is the soundtrack.  The movie showcases fresh takes on thirty classic Beatles' songs while weaving a story around the message that each implies. Taymor chose unknown actors for her lead roles, wanting to find talented singer/actors and not just have big names tied to the project.  She chose two Brits Joe Anderson and Jim Sturgess has her two male leads.  They are both young and crazy enough to pull of the roles of soul-searchers Max and Jude.  The more famous Evan Rachel Wood plays Lucy, and although many know she can act, this is her first singing role.  All three shined as the lead trio, and their voices were amazing.  Perhaps the best musical sequence comes not from the stars.  The movie's interpretation of the Beatles' Let It Be solos two unknown African American singers.  A young boy and older woman belt this song better than any other character in the film.

Everything in this film portrays the Sixties in such a real way.  Taymor made every aspect of the film a part of the Beatles' classic songs.  Every character name was from a song, and several were references to other famous musicians of the time.  Janis Joplin is portrayed through Sadie, and Jimi Hendrix is portrayed through JoJo.

Taymor has commented that of the over 300 Beatles' songs, she only used 30 in this film.  She's up to teaming up with the same cast to continue the story.  

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