Sunday, September 23, 2007
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.......8/10
“Fixed in time and timeless.”
Critics are too often compelled to make the remark of “mere spectacle” whenever a film is so boisterously visual, but beyond and within the splendor of ‘ACROSS THE UNIVERSE’ lives a beating heart with genuine feeling. Taymor artfully unravels a story of inverwoven lives in which characters and places sway with the passage of time in a buoyant and compelling way. Jude leaves liverpool to locate his american father. He meets restless Max, falls in love with Max's sister, moves to NY with him, meets some more people all displaced one way or another, and all of whom are formatively tumbling forward.
Like a wanderer to the tune of a siren’s song (never a more apt analogy), you will follow enraptured, at least i did. ‘Universe’ captures the broad essence of a tumultuous and vibrant time in history; the changing landscape of american youth in the wake of Vietnam and civil rights, with equal parts grace, tenacity, theatricality, and colorful groundedness. That's no small accomplishment. Sure, it rests on a predominant and stylized visual punch, but one that is wielded with ingenuity and relevance, and that is not so much a crutch as it is joyously respondent to the time and each moment. To those who racant with words like "overstated" and "over the top" I say, yes indeed and all for the better. Once people break into spontaneous song and dance, I say anything goes. What’s more is that 90% of the songs were recorded live on set without overdubbing in post-production, a testament to the richness of talent that is overflowing in this film that reinvigorates timeless music (almost all Beatles songs) in a timeless tale.
Let me contradict my praise by saying that ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was not my favorite film of the year. While vibrant and powerful, it was mostly so when songs were in swing (which they were a remarkable amout of the time). In its "regular moments" we are left with pretty people and slightly less in the pail of rather familiar material. Despite this hinderance, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE stands tall as an enlivening experience that I have little to compare to over these summer months. Dismiss the dismay of those who say it’s a just a "pretty nostalgic romp." I’m just glad that a Hollywood film can still have a lively spirit that is both convincing and contagious. “This is a movie that fires its songs like flowers at the way we live now. It's the kind of movie you watch again, like listening to a favorite album” (Ebert)