The Beatles Were Never More Human Than in ‘Let It Be’ | Features

And yet, newly restored by Peter Jackson, who made “The Beatles: Get Back,” and streaming on Disney+, “Let It Be” turns out to be a pretty great Beatles movie, even in this compromised form. (The band members apparently demanded cuts from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, whose initial version was about an hour longer.) Running 80 minutes, the film has a fragmented, inconclusive feel—a jagged, pieced-together energy that matches the mood of its four subjects, who have been together too long, their friendship still intact but fraying badly. History tends to view the Beatles as perfect creatures—a joyful foursome who created one of the great bodies of work of the 20th century—and while “The Beatles: Get Back” observed this fractious period in more detail, “Let It Be” has a skeletal rawness that cuts deeper. It reminds the viewer that even being in a rock ‘n’ roll band can feel like a job sometimes. It reminds us that the mighty Beatles were also very human. 

Lindsay-Hogg’s documentary features no title cards, no interviews, no introductory text to explain what we’re watching. But the opening shot tells you what you need to know: The Beatles’ distinctive logo on Ringo Starr’s drum set is shown prominently before it’s whisked away by one of the band’s crew, unceremoniously added to a pile of other random music paraphernalia. By 1969, when “Let It Be” was filmed, the Beatles were already legendary, but they were also a lucrative brand—a commodity, a business entity—and the innocent magic of yesterday was gone. That unromantic opening sets the stage for everything that follows, which takes place in three movements. The first involves the Beatles working out the “Let It Be” album tracks on a London soundstage. The second finds them at Apple recording the songs. The final (and most famous) segment features the group performing on the studio rooftop, exciting passersby while annoying the police. “Let It Be” is a story about the world’s greatest band just trying to get through something—and, with the benefit of collective hindsight, starting the process of letting each other go. 

“The Beatles: Get Back” strenuously pushed back against the lore that the Beatles were at each other’s throats constantly during this time. There were plenty of happy passages in Jackson’s film, but they’re also evident in “Let It Be,” which is understandable considering the band members allegedly asked Lindsay-Hogg to trim the more rancorous moments—the moments which, ironically, made their way into “The Beatles: Get Back.” But while Jackson’s documentary is encyclopedic and exhaustive—not to mention occasionally exhausting in its memorialization of minutiae—“Let It Be” feels more pointed, emphasizing the mundanity of the rock-star life.