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All Together Now

Other // Unrated // October 21, 2008
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted October 27, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
I have not been a fan of the filmed versions of Cirque du Soleil's amazing multimedia shows, so I didn't hold out much hope for All Together Now, a documentary detailing the enticing collaboration between The Beatles and the imaginative Montreal-based "circus" (anyone who's seen a Cirque show knows that calling it a circus is a massive understatement). And yet this consistently fascinating piece managed to not only completely capture my interest, it also touched me deeply as it showed a dream of the late George Harrison's coming to fruition through literally years of exhaustive preparation and hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses.

When George Harrison met Cirque founder Guy Laliberté a short while before Harrison's death, he proffered something heretofore unthinkable in the Cirque canon: instead of music specially written for a specific Cirque show, what about building a show around the music of the most important pop/rock group of all time, namely The Beatles? This idea went through various iterations, including having the typical Cirque live musicians doing arrangements of Beatles tunes, before a genius solution was hit upon: original Beatles producer and arranger George Martin, along with his son Giles, would go back to the original Beatles tapes, digitize them, and then remix them with technology that probably wasn't even dreamed about during the original 1962-69 recording sessions. In fact, terming the Martins' work "remixing" is in a very real sense as much of an understatement as calling Cirque du Soleil a "circus." What the Martins did was completely reimagine the basic elements of The Beatles' music, chopping it up and recombining it in ways that were stupendously creative, yet always true to the spirit of the originals.

All Together Now is a completely riveting "tag along" piece showing "Love," the Cirque du Soleil performance featuring The Beatles' music, being developed and staged. What that means is the viewer is shown sometimes not too pretty backstage tangles (let's just say Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison have their own ideas about how their late husbands' music should be staged), the gargantuan and costly effort to build a new theater in Las Vegas to house the production, as well as the acrobatic trials and tribulations of the cast attempting to learn their new routines. It's a multifaceted spectacle that really gives a palpable "you are there" feeling throughout.

Emotionally at the core of this exceptional piece is the loving partnership between George Martin and his son Giles. It's probably obvious to state no one outside of the Fab Four knows The Beatles' music as well as the elder Martin, but Giles certainly gives him a run for his money. The fact that George is quite elderly, hard of hearing, and all too aware that this is probably his last professional act only lends a sense of urgency and importance to the proceedings, something that Giles is also obviously keeping in mind every step of the way. Watching the two put their arms around each other and pat each other on the back as the show finally gets up and running will bring a lump to the throat of most viewers.

There are also wonderful interviews with all the principals, including Sir Paul, Ringo, and the widows Lennon and Harrison, as well as some great vintage film of George Martin recording The Beatles in the early 1960s. No filmic punches are pulled as the various parties interact and argue. The late Neil Aspinall (to whom the film is dedicated), former CEO of Apple, makes it quite clear in an interview that Apple works as a reverse democracy--if one person isn't satisfied with something, it has to be changed, majority does not rule here. Though Yoko comes off as a bit prickly at times (did you expect anything less?), she actually makes several cogent and productive suggestions, including steering the production away from a too sexual and "sleazy" (in her words) staging of "Come Together."

If you purchased the "Love" CD a couple of years ago and listened to it too casually, you may not be aware of the amazing amount of rethinking these songs underwent at the hands of the Martins. All Together Now, both in the feature and some of the excellent extras, shows the studio work in some detail, with songs being combined and digitally manipulated in some really mind-blowing ways.

All Together Now is simply one hell of a backstage pass to an epochal collaboration. If you're a fan of The Beatles or Cirque du Soleil, you absolutely must see this. If you're a fan of stagecraft generally, this is still sure to amaze and enthrall you.


The enhanced 1.78:1 image is completely sharp and crisp, with excellent color and contrast throughout. Some of the archival footage from the 1960s is somewhat damaged, but it's still a lot of fun to see.

There are excellent DD 2.0 and both DD and DTS 5.1 soundtracks available here, with the music's reimagining being well exploited in the 5.1 mix. The Martins go into some detail in the documentary and extras about needing to repurpose the music for a huge circular auditorium with a truly mind boggling array of speakers (some actually implanted in the theatrical seating), and the 5.1 versions of the songs, as foreshortened as some of them are due to the format of the documentary, are extremely cool to listen to. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Three featurettes nicely augment the "production diary" that is the main documentary. We get "Changing the Music," focusing on the digital manipulation of the original Beatles tracks, "Music in the Theater," which delves into the impressive sound design for the massive production, and "Making Love," which details aspects of the production design from sets to costumes and props. There's also a trailer.

Final Thoughts:
Watching All Together Now made me want to hop the nearest plane I could find to jet to Las Vegas to see the show. If you knew how much I hate to fly, you'd know what a compliment that is. This is one of the most consistently engaging and moving documentaries I've seen in recent memory and is very Highly Recommended.

"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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Highly Recommended

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