February 4, 2011
February 1, 2011
on Public Television and was excited to watch the concert on Blu-ray, which
finally came up in my Netflix queue yesterday. The first few moments of the
video were promising. The Beatle aura, the anointing, Paul wore as a given, but
with the usual wry generosity. He was in great shape, physically and vocally,
hitting a couple of the old brash McCartney high notes that almost
made me come. But my excitement, sadly, was short-lived.
The New York concert production looked phenomenal - I wish I had been there.
Because the video, as many reviewers have already noted, is a mess. There is
so much cutting that it was like watching a 2 hour-long trailer instead of a
concert, which completely undermined its substance. It was as if they had 48
cameras, and they were going to use every one of them, dammit, on every
song. And yeah, okay, the audience was ecstatic, teary, and in the groove. But
there were more shots of the crowd than of McCartney. There seemed to be
more shots of everything, the band, the guitars, the drummer, the keyboards,
the lights, the audience, the floor, than of McCartney. So obsessive was
the producer’s determination to integrate B roll into the concert that all through
Paul’s rendition of “I’m Fixing A Hole” we had to watch cutaways of everything
from the lights on the mixing console, to security guards backstage... and of
course, more audience, at times literally three or four shots for every one of the
singer. During “Yesterday” there were no less than six cutaways to noisy blue
close-ups of the keyboard player’s hands.
There was no arc, let alone variation in pace. Few shots lasted longer than a few
seconds, and most of them a fraction of that. Constant and eventually
monotonous, what was no doubt intended to hype the energy ended up deflating
it. The interwoven documentary footage surrounding the concert, including a live
hookup with the international space station, was self-serving and seemed
intended to hype the concert’s aura as an Event. But phenomena speak for
themselves. Instead of being so determined to portray the concert as one, the
video’s producer should have simply let it be one. The intercut testimonies,
including several featuring former president Bill Clinton, to Paul’s greatness,
grew tedious. Somebody didn’t realize that Paul’s already got the job.
In David Frost's famous television interview with Richard Nixon, the camera
stayed on the former President's face for minutes at a time, and it was riveting.
I’m not suggesting that the video’s producer should have gone that far. It was a
pop concert after all. But the producer of “The Space Within Us” had so little
faith in the legendary Beatle's ability to hold anybody’s attention that he was
afraid to risk more than a second or two at a time. And that is the video’s
ultimate betrayal, and failure.
About two thirds through the video I realized that the visual assault would never
relent, and I left the room. With the help of the soundtrack alone, and the space
within me, I was able to imagine, at least, the concert that I would like to have seen.
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