Across The Universe: Two-Disc Special Edition (Columbia, 2007) D: Julie Taymor, w/ Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
So much to love, so much to loathe. The basic idea is pure Beatles kitsch. It’s an all-Beatles musical whose love story takes us through the hippie 60s: long hair, Greenwich Village, communal living, colourful clothing, Vietnam, acid, demonstrations, radicalization, etc.
But it’s beautifully executed. Director Julie Taymor, who’s had an award-winning career in theatre and opera, has an outstanding sense of colour, composition and movement.
She aptly recontextualizes some songs, notably Let It Be as a gospel outpouring of pain and hope, Strawberry Fields as a mind crumbling under the horrors of combat in Vietnam.
But she can’t always escape the clichés, like young people running around waving their arms to A Little Help From My Friends to symbolize youthful exuberance, a climactic rooftop concert that mirrors the Beatles’ swan song from Let It Be (1970) and a Yellow Submarine-ish (the movie, not the song) For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite saved only by Eddie Izzard’s droll improvisations.
As the English working-class artist and the middle-class nice girl who’s turning radical, Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood are pleasant and energetic, but they pale beside Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther McCoy as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix types. Those two can really rock.
Taymor and her young cast are fun to watch in the extras, all bursting with creativity and enthusiasm. She’s more subdued on the commentary, but partner Elliot Goldenthal chimes in with some interesting remarks on his approach to arrangement.
Extras Disc one: Taymor and Goldenthal commentary, deleted scene. Widescreen. English, Spanish, Portuguese audio. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai subtitles. Disc two: Director, actors, music, dance, effects docs, extended musical performances. Widescreen. Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai subtitles.