At his suggestion, The Gryphon and I watched Across the Universe this week. I was blown away by this movie.
It's a musical that uses all Beatles songs to tell the story, with the songs interwoven in such a way that it feels like they're actually the words of these characters.
The movies is set in the '60s and weaves in a number of historical events and figures. But the main characters are everyday people: a young working-class guy from England looking for his father, an idealistic young women whose boyfriend is fighting in Vietnam and her rebellious brother, a teen runaway who's artistic and quirky, and some musicians clearly patterned on famous musicians.
There are a number of surprising cameos which I won't reveal for fear of spoiling them. But they are lots of fun.
Through the use of careful musical arrangements, attention to detail in terms of costumes, set, visual design and special effects, the movie flows like a visual poem. Yet, it does a great job of telling the story of these young people in the '60s. What's more, it feels current, as if they could be from today as easily as from 40 years ago. If they weren't protesting LBJ, for example, in one war protest scene, it could be a protest of the Iraq war.
I think that's what really moved me about this film. So many of us really love Beatles song, and even those who aren't huge Beatles fans know the songs so well, it's become something of a soundtrack to our lives. How many times, in the midst of a life crisis, for example, have you heard "Let It Be" or a similarly suitable Beatles song? I know it's happened to me.
I was really glad The Gryphon suggested watching it, and I was pleased that he stayed up with me when I watched it, even though he watched it separately because of our conflicting schedules. He seemed to be enjoying it as much as I did.
I highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves musicals, anybody who loves The Beatles, anybody who's interesting in pop culture and politics, anybody who loves independent film and anyone who just likes special effects. There's something for everybody. After all, the themes of the movie — love, war, rebellion, art, hope — are universal. Pardon the pun.
My dad is lending me the Herman Hesse book Steppenwolf, which I've never read and which he only recently read himself. You see, my perpetually optimistic, sunny Dad has discovered existentialism. To him, it's a revelation. Every time I see him, he's going on about Jean-Paul Sartre or reading The Plague by Camus. It's sort of endearing.
I've sort of been there, done that, having taken a college existentialism class with a professor who dressed all in black and spoke with a French accent, always reminding me a bit of Nico of Velvet Underground fame. Those were the days when the angst-ridden Hamlet was my favorite Shakespeare play. I've since moved on to The Tempest, a play about magic and dreams deferred. Draw your own conclusions.
For me, it's fun to watch Dad discover things that were once the fabric of my life, just as I imagine it must have been for him when I discovered his record albums, such as Sergeant Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour. In fact, I used to take his books off the crowded shelves in our living room and read them, but somehow never picked this up. Sort of surprising, when you consider that a '60s rock band took its name from the title, and I was very much into '60s rock.
So far, Steppenwolf strikes me as bleakly self-indulgent, although it's quite well-written, with many poetic passages. But I'm only about a quarter into it, so we'll see where it develops from here. I just have little patience anymore for angst. Why wallow in self-pity when there's so much beauty across the universe?
It's kind of funny when your dad is more emo than you.