Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
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“Deconstructing Jim” is simply here to
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Across the Universe

On Christmas eve after dinner we finally got the entire family in one place at the same time, and put on a DVD from Netflix that had been sitting idle on top of the TV for weeks. I often get a little flak from my family for selecting movies on Netflix that are too "artsy" or "modernist" or "abstract" - but this one seemed to please everyone.

Across the Universe is directed by Julie Taymor. The movie dates from 2007, and was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. It tells the story of the crazy and turbulent 1960's skillfully combining 33 songs written by The Beatles and assembled into a montage. The songs are reworked and sung primarily by the young actors in the film - although there are a few rock veterans who appear on the screen in cameo.

It is a movie that certainly deserves the label of "flashback" on my blog posting, since I felt it does an amazing job of capturing the zeitgeist of that era.

I particularly liked the psychedelic and absurdest scenes, such as Eddie Izzard performing as a circus ring-leader in the surrealistic song "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite."


The set is imaginative, and the camera flashes to the circus orchestra remind me of a Picasso cubist painting.


The blue guys are cool to look at, and they can dance too! (On the DVD there is some supplemental material with out-takes of this scene which are pretty hilarious to watch).

Yet can view the "Mr. Kite" scene from this movie (and many others) on YouTube....



It was definitely a flashback to see English blues/rock singer Joe Cocker perform "Come Together" in a cameo scene where he appears as a disheveled homeless person at the bottom of a subway escalator. It was only after seeing his trademark "air guitar" hand motions that I realized it was him (or at least a ghostly image of his former self). Joe Cocker fans can view my earlier posting from September 11th, 2008 where I blogged about my 1969 Woodstock experience.



Another flashback for me was a character named Jojo (played by Martin Luther McCoy) who represents the rock star Jimi Hendrix. Much of the movie takes place in New York's Greenwich Village of the 1960's. There is a club in the film named "Cafe Huh" which is strikingly reminiscent of the real club an aspiring Jimi Hendrix performed at called "Cafe Wah?" Bob Dylan also got his start there, performing a set his first night after arriving on the NY scene in 1961.


A little known but true fact is that when I was about 13 years old, I performed myself at Cafe Wah in a rock band. I'm exaggerating slightly, since it was only an audition, but it was in front of a live audience and we were reasonably well received. My brother Larry had somehow convinced the management that my garage band from middle school should be granted a chance to audition. When the house band took their break, we quickly plugged in our instruments, and did a few numbers for the small lunch crowd. I think the audience thought we were "cute" which greatly annoyed me at the time. Doesn't anyone take 13-year olds seriously?

The original Cafe Wah? was sold in 1988 and is now a comedy club, but a new version of the historic music venue was created for tourists and can be visited at 115 MacDougal Street near 3rd Avenue in the Village today.

One of the interesting characters in the movie is a gal named Prudence (played by T.V. Carpio). A little piece of Beatles trivia: the person named Prudence that the song was written about is the sister of actor Mia Farrow. Apparently Prudence spent so much time in her room doing Transcendental Meditation, that she wouldn't venture out.

Rock star - and former UN Ambassador - Bono appears in cameo as a bizarre character named Dr. Robert (inspired by the infamous Dr. Timothy Leary perhaps?) and he sings "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" at the end of the film. (It was said in the old days that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was code for L.S.D.)

The movie is enjoyable as a musical, and has some great dance and visual effects, but I miss hearing the original Beatles renditions of the songs. However the quality of the singing in the film comes across as somewhat uneven. As good as the movie is, it lost money. The budget was 45 million dollars, and it pulled in less than 29 million.

Across the Universe
is a movie worth seeing, especially if you are an old hippie like me.


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