I saw a film to­day, oh boy

Across the Uni­verse is a bold reimag­in­ing of the trippy 1960s, writes Michael Dwyer ACROSS THE UNI­VERSE Di­rected by Julie Tay­mor. Star­ring Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe An­der­son, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy, TV Car­pio, Ed­die Iz­zard, Bono, Joe C

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

THE mag­i­cal mu­si­cal tour that is Across the Uni­verse takes its ti­tle from one of the 33 Bea­tles songs on the sound­track, and its open­ing line from an­other (Girl), when a young Liver­pool dock worker plain­tively sings, “Is there any­body go­ing to lis­ten to my story?”

Hey, it’s Jude, played by English new­comer Jim Sturgess, whose nat­u­ral screen pres­ence matches his strik­ing singing voice. The movie fol­lows his ex­pe­ri­ences when he goes to the US in the late 1960s, dis­cov­ers the coun­ter­cul­ture and falls in love with a rad­i­calised Prince­ton stu­dent named Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood).

Julie Tay­mor – who di­rected the ground­break­ing stage pro­duc­tion of The Lion King be­fore turn­ing to movies with Ti­tus and Frida – cre­atively rein­ter­prets the Bea­tles songs in the movie’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing fu­sion of cin­e­matic and the­atri­cal styles. Her deliri­ously stylised mu­si­cal is pho­tographed in gor­geous, vi­brant im­agery lit by Bruno Del­bon­nel, the painterly French cin­e­matog­ra­pher of Amèlie.

Di­a­logue is min­i­mal and the vi­su­als are elo­quent as the nar­ra­tive (which is al­most as slen­der as the screen­plays for A Hard Day’s Night and Help!) is ad­vanced through the lyrics of mostly clas­sic com­po­si­tions from more than 40 years ago, and spiked with a con­tem­po­rary rel­e­vance. There’s a war go­ing on in Viet­nam and, when Lucy’s brother Max (Joe An­der­son) is drafted, a singing Un­cle Sam poster bursts into I Want You (She’s So Heavy), which con­tin­ues as newly in­ducted sol­diers carry a Statue of Lib­erty replica on their shoul­ders through the jun­gle.

Jude and Lucy be­friend their New York land­lady, Sadie (Dana Fuchs), who per­forms an aptly sexy ver­sion of Why Don’tWe Do It in the Road? and en­gages with Detroit mu­si­cian JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy) in a vig­or­ous duet/duel on Oh! Dar­ling. Salma Haeyk plays five danc­ing nurses dur­ing Hap­pi­ness Is a Warm Gun. I Want to Hold Your Hand is trans­formed into an aching les­bian torch song when per­formed by a Detroit stu­dent named Pru­dence (TV Car­pio).

As Dr Robert, Bono, in cow­boy hat, blue-tinted shades and wal­rus mous­tache, punches out I Am the Wal­rus with panache dur­ing a blissed-out ex­cur­sion into psychedelia. And in Ed­die Iz­zard’s declam­a­tory For the Ben­e­fit of Mr Kite, of course Henry the horse dances a waltz.

It helps that that Henry is achieved through an­i­ma­tion, which joins pup­petry, masks and chore­og­ra­phy in Tay­mor’s in­ge­niously em­ployed arse­nal of de­vices. When the lyrics don’t fit, as in the case of A Day in the Life, Tay­mor can­not re­sist us­ing this most dra­matic of Bea­tles songs in an in­stru­men­tal ver­sion that is stir­ring and ac­com­pa­nied by res­o­nant images.

Across the Uni­verse is a bold achieve­ment, burst­ing with creative ideas, joy­ously ro­man­tic and pep­pered with witty Bea­tles ref­er­ences. The sound­track is, of course, a knock­out, af­firm­ing the en­dur­ing qual­ity of the songs and their ver­sa­til­ity.

The movie is suf­fused with the joy of per­for­mance in a heady au­dio­vi­sual ex­pe­ri­ence that com­pares favourably with Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Be­cause Across the Uni­verse is just as un­con­ven­tional, it is cer­tain to di­vide au­di­ences more than most movies. You most likely will love it or hate it. All you need is love.

Day trip­pers: Bono belts out I Am the Wal­rus in this mag­i­cal mys­tery tour

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