30 January 2008

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE - A MUSICAL DISASTER BY JULIA TAYMOR

The critical reception to Julia Taymor's musical experiment was quite vitriolic when the film was released in the summer of last year and having finally seen the film I can see why the critics had very few good things to say about this terrible film. The film seemed to have bypassed UK cinemas quickly because I don't even remember it being reviewed but when I looked at the external reviews listing on imdb I was amazed to see that the film was furnished with a limited release in selected arthouse cinemas and receieved a paltry 1 star in the Guardian newspaper's Friday review. Costing around $40 million dollars and starring a cast of unknowns along with one of the best soundtracks you're ever likely to hear. This is Taymor's tribute to enduring popularity of the Beatles music and the 60's counter culture decade but somehow the film just don't work. It fails in being a musical and it fails in offering us anything new about the 1960s which has been endlessly documented by Hollywood. The 60s has been approached in so many films that the decade seems to be losing it's cultural, social and political relevance. For some reason, Taymor treats her characters and the 1960's impulsive revolutionary ideals with a striking degree of naviety and simplicity which reduces her argument down to the ideological nothingness of an annoying Gap advert. Evan Rachel Wood plays Lucy in the film, a young wannabe revolutionary radical who has plans to instigate social change? The problem with such a proposition is that Lucy is presented like giant real life Barbie Doll which is something an American TV series on teenagers would perhaps do. There is nothing real about her as a person, and that very much sums up the film as a whole. Taymor tries and wants her film to be tricky, clever, inventive, and self reflexive cinema with a postmodern edge but it comes across as being silly, empty and spectacularly shallow. Nothing about the film works, not even the soundtrack which is just overused and exploited purely for reasons to do with Taymor's love of the Beatle's songs. The film goes on forever, never quite knowing when to stop and formulate an appropriate ending. The image Taymor presents of both Britain and America is puerile and superficially crammed with sterotypes and cliques, many of which do nothing to help elevate the film's status. Unlike the Western, the musical genre continues to face an uphill struggle in being taken seriously by contemporary critics. Across the Universe is part of another long line of failed critical and commercial attempts to revive and reinvent the genre for today's generation.

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