‘Let It Be’ review: The Beatles dust off their spellbinding 1970 break-up doc

‘Let It Be’ review: The Beatles dust off their spellbinding 1970 break-up doc

“It really didn’t get a fair shake the first time,” Michael Lindsay-Hogg tells Peter Jackson in a new introductory interview to the first release since 1970 of Lindsay-Hogg’s fly-on-the-studio-wall Beatles film Let It Be. “Finally it’s going to get a chance to be embraced for the curious and fascinating character that it is.”

Its original release, Lindsay-Hogg has argued, was overshadowed by the band’s split just weeks before; 1970’s viewers watched Let It Be in a state of grief. As it arrives on Disney+, though, the audience of 2024 will find themselves similarly tainted towards it – this time, though, we know too much. Refreshed and revitalised as the film has been by the brushing-up process of Jackson’s 2021 exhaustive eight-hour series Get Back – drawn from Lindsay-Hogg’s original 1969 footage – it’s now glaringly obvious how much has been left out. The tedium and tension that made Jackson’s series so engrossing – particularly George’s “whatever it is that will please you” frustration and departure mid-session – is brushed over in the original film so as not to rock any boats. Twenty minutes in, the band just switch from the cavernous Twickenham soundstage to a cosy studio at their Apple HQ with no indication that, if they hadn’t, The Beatles would have been over.

Songs like ‘Two Of Us’, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ and ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ come together in cinematic seconds, robbing the film of the creative grist that powered Jackson’s series. Banter is kept to bare snippets, en route to posed renditions of ‘The Long And Winding Road’ and the title track. The effect, post-Get Back, is to reduce the first hour of Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be to an extended promo clip, with insights into the fractious state of the band politely tucked away in the vault.

What Let It Be has gained through the decades, though, is historical weight. The sight of The Beatles playing and rehearsing together, freely and candidly, will never lose its window-on-history magic. Meanwhile, tracks that might have felt new – even a bit throwaway – in 1970 have become stone cold classics, adding to the thrill of watching John and Yoko waltz along to ‘I Me Mine’, John and Paul fluff lines of ‘Two Of Us’ into the same microphone, Paul slip into a reggae ‘The Long And Winding Road’ or Yoko do a crossword while the band polish up ‘Dig A Pony’. Great cultural import is here, and never more so than in the still wonderful footage of the scenes on the street as The Beatles take to the Apple rooftop for what would be their last ever performance. The pipe-smoking gents clambering over roofs for a better view. The excited mods and Twiggy-alikes crowding the pavements. The stern policemen uncertain if they should be clamping down or rocking out.

There may not be a more punk rock bit of film on earth than George being told the police were on the roof to shut them down, and casually turning his amp back on. For that alone, for all its whitewashing and line-toeing, Let It Be remains a staggering watch.


Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Release date: May 8 (Disney+)

The post ‘Let It Be’ review: The Beatles dust off their spellbinding 1970 break-up doc appeared first on NME.

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