Film Spotlight: Across the Universe

The 1960s in the United States was a quagmire of anxiety, violence, and dissidence. In an artful way, Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe (2007) touched upon those emotions by melding the songs of the Beatles into the unfolding of this troubling time.

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On one level the film is a romantic musical between a Liverpudlian named Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) as the American girl-next-door. On another level, the film is a historical story of pop culture’s most representative Rock group of the sixties, The Beatles.

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The Beatles represented the coming-of-age story youths faced in the 60s. If their royalties are an indicator of how far-reaching their personalities and music meant to society, the group was an essential part of 60s pop culture. Statistics vary depending on UK and US markets, but combine the two, and you have 27 number one songs and an easy album to listen to, The Beatles,1.

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Depends on the source, but a conservative estimate is that Paul McCartney earns $38 million a year, or $100 a minute.

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From censored, sweet beginnings “It Won’t Be Long” to psychedelic “Strawberry Fields” to enlightenment in “Let it Be”, Beatles songs coincide with references to key events in U.S. history. In Across the Universe, every song sung is a vignette showcasing the loss of innocence, bewilderment, defiance, and resurrection through the power of love.

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A favorite scene of mine highlights Max, (Joe Anderson), trying to dodge the draft. He’s called to the processing station to ascertain whether he is fit for duty to serve in Vietnam. He eats cotton balls so it looks like a spot is on his lung. Here, check out the trailer:

The film featured great cameo performances. Joe Cocker does a cool rendition of “Come Together” with his gritty voice. Selma Hayek, or five of her, is perfect as the drug Max hallucinated in the hospital. The best cameo is U2’s Bono who plays the Beatnik, Dr. Robert. “You’re either on the bus, or off the bus.” At the height of the hippie movement, Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) coined the phrase as a call to join in or not, the hippie universe. Bono performs a psychedelic version ofΒ  “I am the Walrus”.

Superbly directed by Julie Taymor, this film is colorful, sensual, exciting, and a lot of fun to watch. What’s your favorite scene?

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15 thoughts on “Film Spotlight: Across the Universe

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  1. Those particular Beatle posters are still beautiful. I got the originals out of a magazine called EYE Magazine. Remember that? Now defunct I presume. The Beatles just happen to be among the most photogenic people that ever lived tho.
    The movie? Never saw it. Another one that got by me. Have to check it out …

  2. The Beatles remain easily my favorite musicians, which is why I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen this. Tried once, when it was still in theaters. But it didn’t work out.

    Sounds like you enjoyed it a lot, so maybe I’ll make a point of breaking my “I Only Have Time For New Movies” policy. I need to see this one.

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