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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years documentary review: yeah yeah yeah

The Beatles Eight Days a Week The Touring Years

MaryAnn’s quick take…
There’s not a lot new here, but the vintage footage is fab, as is the much-needed reminder that the supposedly innocent past was hardly innocent at all.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love the Beatles’s music (who doesn’t?)
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The band you know,” goes the tagline for The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, “the story you don’t.” Can that really be true? The Beatles have not authorized a feature-length documentary like this one since they broke up in 1970, but surely everyone knows pretty much everything about the bestsellingest band of all time, the band that kickstarted the cultural revolution of the 1960stweet and helped create a truly global pop culture. Don’t they? Everyone’s seen A Hard Day’s Night, right? I mean, I’m not the most devoted of Beatles fans: I really like their music — who doesn’t? — but I have not studied them extensively, yet there’s nothing in the overall arc of the story here of the early Beatles phenomenon that I was not aware of. (One thing did surprise me: I couldn’t believe that I had somehow missed hearing that director Ron Howard had a new film that isn’t based on a Dan Brown novel.)

In remastered footage from the 1965 Shea Stadium concert, you can actually hear the music, not just the screaming of fans.

That said, many of the details are fun and fascinating, and the vintage footage — some of which has not been seen before — is, well, fab. (If you see Eight Days a Week in a cinema, stick around after the film for 30 minutes of remastered footage from the 1965 Shea Stadium concert. You can actually hear the music, not just the screaming of fans.) From small performances in English clubs to that first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show to the US tour that invented stadium rock to that final impromptu concert on the roof of their London offices in January 1969, Eight Days a Week tracks the trajectory of John, Paul, George, and Ringo from a gaggle of cheeky lads mystified at the religious ecstasy of their fans to mature artists burnt out on Beatlemania and moving on to make sophisticated rock. Lots of now famous creative types check in regarding how they were influenced by the Beatlestweet as kids: we hear from Eddie Izard, Richard Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg, and Elvis Costello, among others. And there are new interviews with surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, too.

Such nice boys...

Such nice boys…tweet

Perhaps the best thing about Eight Days a Week is the reminder — desperately needed these days, when nostalgia for a supposed “greater” time is obscuring the horrors of recent history — that the supposedly innocent past was hardly innocenttweet. Amidst the conflict of the civil rights struggle in 1960s America, for instance, four clean-cut white boys refused to play in front of segregated audiences, which was the norm in the South… and their insistence on equality and fairness forced genuine social change that might have taken a lot longer to come about. It’s become sort of a gentle joke, to look back now and marvel at how terrified certain conservative culture watchers were of the Beatles with their “long” hair and loud music. But they were radical in some ways that were truly dangerous to a status quo that needed shaking up, and always does.

green light 3.5 stars

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The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years (2016) | directed by Ron Howard
US/Can release: Sep 16 2016
UK/Ire release: Sep 15 2016

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 12A (infrequent strong language, drug references)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • Kathy_A

    Oh, thanks for this, MaryAnn!! I hadn’t even heard about this film, but I’m definitely going to seek it out in the theater. Lifelong fan of the Beatles, born the year before Sgt. Pepper came out (heck, my first bit of fanfic writing, at the age of 11, was RPF about them!).

    IMO, Hard Day’s Night might just be the epitome of “timeless classic film,” because it not only stands the test of time, but it is just as funny today as the day it was released.

  • Bluejay

    Looking forward to this! The Beatles seem to be bubbling up in the ether again lately. Jeff Smith, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his awesome comics series Bone, recently released this:


    And Kubo and the Two Strings ends with this song:


  • Kathy_A

    I just bought my ticket for tonight’s show. It looks like it’s only playing in three theaters here in the Chicago ‘burbs tonight, and that’s it (no more shows after today). Looking forward to it!!

  • amanohyo

    That’s cool. I also like this one from a few years ago:


  • Kathy_A

    I saw this last night, and it was excellent! I’m pretty sure it was the first time I’ve ever seen the Beatles on a big screen with appropriate sound system, and it was wonderful to hear and see.
    I loved the little details on the periphery–the cops at Shea Stadium covering their ears from the noise of the crowd, George flicking the ash from his cigarette into John’s hair during an interview and Paul motioning that he wanted a light for his cig at the same time and then cracking up when he noticed what George was doing. The modern-day interviews with celebrity fans were fun, too–Whoopi Goldberg’s memory of that Shea Stadium concert, Sigourney Weaver making sure to get all dressed up in just the right dress, because of course the Beatles would see her way in the back at the Hollywood Bowl and be impressed with her outfit! (And there was even footage of her at that concert, which was an impressive find.)

  • bronxbee

    sadly — unbelievably — this is playing in only one theatre in NYC! at the IFC Center which means the screens will be small and the theatres uncomfortable and it will only be there a little while. I would love to see this.

  • Danielm80

    That describes almost every movie I’ve seen this summer. The studio films this year have been so awful that I’ve been watching mostly documentaries and animated films–or, in the case of Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, both.

    If you go to see a really small, independent film, sometimes the folks who made the movie show up to talk to you, in spite of the uncomfortable seats.

  • Bluejay

    As I understand it, it’s in very limited release in theaters but will be available online to Hulu subscribers.

    It also played at the Cobble Hill Cinema, and will play there again this Sunday — small theater but pretty comfortable in my experience. So, not a huge range of options, but it IS in more than one theater.

  • Bluejay

    True! I’ve seen Mamoru Hosoda this way (speaking after Wolf Children) and also Roger Allers (speaking after Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet; he also directed The Lion King). Hurray for the NY International Children’s Film Festival. :-)

  • Bluejay

    I just saw this, and I agree — it was great to see and hear the Beatles presented with appropriately big sound in a theater, with an appreciative crowd. The Shea Stadium concert is a real treasure, and if it’s only available in theaters then that’s all the more reason for Beatle fans to hurry and get tickets rather than wait for Hulu. I loved seeing them interact between songs, with Paul fumbling his introductions (and John gently mocking his gestures), and John exasperatedly babbling gibberish into the microphone (since he couldn’t hear a thing over the crowd) and just goofing around with George on the keyboard.

    Another treat: the Christmas message to their fan club, that played over the end credits. Their effortless charm is a marvel. (And I think the word “gear” should be brought back.)

    This film was gear.

  • Danielm80
  • George flicking the ash from his cigarette into John’s hair during an interview and Paul motioning that he wanted a light for his cig at the same time

    It just goes to show how natural and unschooled in talking-to-the-media savvy they were, unlike most celebs today.

  • Oh, that *is* a shame. I got to see it on a pretty big screen.

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