I’m so glad that I finally watched “George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” a 2011 film release directed by Martin Scorsese. I missed it when it originally aired on HBO, but later managed to locate the two-DVD set, which included five bonus features.
This lengthy film is spread over two discs, with a running time of more than three hours and 20 minutes. I felt that this in-depth treatment was necessary, to do justice to the subject matter. For this film, luminaries from all walks of life were interviewed about Harrison (1943-2001), including race car driver Jackie Stewart, filmmaker Terry Gilliam and comedian Eric Idle. The roster from the music world weighing in included his fellow Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, George Martin, Tom Petty, Phil Spector, Billy Preston, and Jeff Lynne. Perspectives from his family members were available from Patti Boyd, Olivia Harrison and his son, Dhani (1978-).
Included here was personal and performance footage which was available for the first time. Although this documentary was roughly chronological, it contained flashbacks throughout. Not surprisingly, the focus of the first 80 minutes was devoted to Harrison’s time with the Beatles.
I suppose there are those who would have preferred a “heavier” editing hand, as there was also a large amount of footage related to Monty Python. While this was interesting, I felt that it might have been a bit much. Nevertheless, when nearing the conclusion of my investment of nearly three and one-half hours, I wished that the film wouldn’t end. It’s too bad that there aren’t many other musical tributes which are done on such an epic scale!
The 16 minutes of bonus features were worthwhile little trifles, including anecdotal recollections from Jeff Lynne and Formula One driver, Damon Hill. There was also a recent revisit to the studio soundboard with Beatles producer George Martin of “Here Comes the Sun,” featuring guitar work from Harrison, which didn’t make the final cut of this hit song. The concluding bonus feature was a strange “multicultural” Harrison performance from the early 1970’s entitled, “Dispute and Violence.”
These discs are essential viewing for George Harrison and Beatles fans. Incidentally, Olivia Harrison co-authored a “coffee-table style” book with the same title, which was also released in 2011.