Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon
Trivia: Olivia Harrison, George Harrison's wife and the producer of this film, chose Martin Scorsese to direct this documentary after she had seen his 2005 Bob Dylan documentary
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who George Harrison was. Even the man known to millions as “the Third Beatle” was still a Beatle, which, by default, made him one of the most recognizable names in Rock and Roll history. That said, my first “exposure” (for want of a better word) to George Harrison outside of the Beatles occurred years ago as I was reading a book about Monty Python my brother had bought, which told how Harrison put up the money to produce Life of Brian when every other studio passed on it. In fact, the production company he formed to finance that movie, Hand Made Films, also produced Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (which, by the way, marked the first time I’d ever heard one of George Harrison’s solo tunes; his “Dream Away”, written especially for the 1981 fantasy, played over that film’s ending credits).
Martin Scorsese’s 2011 documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, touches upon Harrison’s cinematic achievements, as well as the near-immeasurable contributions he made to the world of music, giving us as complete a picture of the man as we could ever hope to see.
Starting with his childhood in Liverpool, Living in the Material World takes us on a journey through George Harrison’s life: the formation of the Beatles; their eventual break-up; his experience with Eastern philosophies, and how they shaped his solo career; and so much more. Utilizing archival footage, home movies, and interviews, Living in the Material World is an open book, exposing us to nearly every facet of the man’s life, both professional and personal.
Which, in the end, is what makes Living in the Material World such a fascinating documentary. Given the same subject matter, most filmmakers might be tempted to linger on the “high points” of Harrison’s career, namely his time with the Beatles. And while Scorsese’s doc does cover that specific era in great detail, it doesn’t do so at the expense of any of Harrison’s other accomplishments. So, along with the “standard” Beatles clips, including the group’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan show and footage of the tumultuous Let it Be recording sessions, Living in the Material World also treats us to a few of Harrison’s home videos, and provides stories told by those who knew him best, some I’m sure the rocker himself wouldn’t have related, like how his first wife, Pattie Boyd, left him to marry his good pal, Eric Clapton (interviews with Boyd and Clapton appear in the movie).
To Scorsese’s credit, he’s crafted a film that will appeal to everyone, even those who aren’t fans of the Beatles, a claim most like-minded documentaries can’t make.