Film Review: Eight Days A Week

by Gargs Allard

If Ringo Starr is the Yogi Berra among musicians, Ron Howard is apparently a Houdini among directors of musical documentaries. Howard, who has long given up his successful acting career to become a top-notch director, shows what can happen when an avid Beatles’ fan with immense talent gets permission to work with precious Beatles’ footage.

Starr, who only wrote a couple of songs the eight years he was a member of the Beatles, is known to have casually coined phrases that have turned into song titles such as “A Hard Day’s Night,” ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,” and “Eight Days a Week.” Not only has that Ringoism turned into another Beatles’ movie title, but it has become more popular than what only Fab Four completists might clamor for.

The film, which is being carried on Hulu, has received rave reviews from sold-out crowds since its release two weeks ago at movie theaters throughout America. Gainesville’s own Hippodrome has extended the showing of the movie thrice already due to overwhelming public response – its last showing now scheduled for October 4.

The film aptly captures, for those who either have never known or may have forgotten, that the Beatles were not just another boy band that took the country by storm for a couple of years, but a public phenomena unequaled up until that time even by Elvis, Frank Sinatra and JFK combined.

The Beatles were great songwriters – the kind that come around say once every few hundred years. Howard’s gem of a film intelligently points out that among songwriters before them, only Schubert and Mozart musical compositions compare with the hundreds of songs with good melodies by the Beatles, 300 of which were written together by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. And before the band was through, as McCartney is quoted in the movie, George Harrison becomes a very formidable songwriter as well, writing some of the Beatles’ best songs ever like “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun.”

One of the most well-known but at the same time shockingly enjoyable things about “Eight Days a Week,” is the footage of female teenage fan interaction, or should I say mayhem, interspersed expertly with Beatles’ interviews, concerts and newsreel-type documentation. When the Beatles appear live it seems as if they are four musical gods who have descended from heaven and who can awaken every sensual nerve within a girl’s body simply by mere rumors of their close proximity. The movie captures this beautifully. The reaction to those who did not get tickets during the first Beatle tour, which was basically akin them to tearing up one downtown after another, prompted city officials to allow the Beatles to return only on the condition that they play stadiums next time, or venues so large that anyone who wanted a ticket could get one.

Not only did the Beatles start stadium tours but they were also the band that would put an end to segregation at music concerts throughout the country. The Beatles refused to play at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville until city officials caved in and allowed the concert to be desegregated.

One of the most endearing and touching moments of the film is when it portrays each member of the band as caring individuals who were sensitive to other’s needs and not carried away by their success and all the madness that was taking place around them. They could be happy-go-lucky but also irreverent jokesters who didn’t take themselves or others too seriously. Nevertheless, they were amazing songwriters and a rock band of the highest caliber when on stage or in the studio.

Despite making a ton of money during the tours (the Beatles hated that no one could hear their music due to weak speaker-system technology and loud screams), the film follows the disillusioned band giving up touring and going into the studios to make some of the best records in the history of music. While this portion of the movie is not long, it is fascinating, so fascinating in fact rumors abound that Howard’s next film will concentrate on the Beatles’ studio sessions.

The movie ends with excerpts from the famous rooftop concert from the “Let it Be” project, that will make any Beatle fans’ hair stand on end.

As an extra incentive to go to the theaters, the Shea Stadium concert is shown at the end of the film – fully restored and remastered, and half-an-hour in length. If you get a chance, go to the theater for this little piece of Beatles happiness alone, because it won’t be on the DVD and might never be seen again, due to ongoing litigations with the late Sid Bernstein’s company, Sid Bernstein Presents, LLC, over rights to the usage of the concert’s film.

If indeed it never sees the light of day after this run in theaters, it will be a crime against the world because it is simply the best Beatles’ concert ever filmed, in all of its full-sounding glory. Although the documentary disses the concert as having been too weak to hear over the crowd noise and going through its antiquated PA system, this concert fully restores the sound while showing the crowd’s meanderings and gyrations in apparent real time. The concert film portion documents how great they played together and knew and loved each other. John already shows great stage presence by now with Paul soon to follow.  And it all goes to prove one sure thing: The Beatles were a fucking great live band.

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