February 28, 2011

February 19, 2011

February 14, 2011

February 10, 2011

February 2, 2011

February 1, 2011

The space within us

I had seen snatches of “Paul McCartney: The Space Within Us” a couple of times 
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.