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GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (director/writer: Martin Scorsese; cinematographers: Martin Kenzie/Robert Richardson; editor: David Tedeschi; cast: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison, Jackie Stewart, Ravi Shankar, Dhani Harrison, Eric Clapton, Pattie Boyd, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector, George Martin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Jim Keltner, Tom Petty; Runtime: 208 minutes; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Martin Scorsese/Olivia Harrison/Nigel Sinclair; HBO; 2011)

“Essential viewing for fans.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Martin Scorsese (“Shine A Light”/”No Direction Home”/”The Last Waltz”)tastefully traces the life of the former Beatle, George Harrison, and tries to get into the head of the tortured-soul working-class Liverpool boy, born in 1943, who became world famous and rich, and who tried to live both a creative and spiritual life. Though Harrison comes across as a flawed being, with plenty of doubts about himself in letting go, he nevertheless appears to be a genuine searcher for spiritual answers and in his legacy created some outstanding music –far more evolved than the bubble-gum tunes of his early Beatle days.

Scorsese seems to have an endless deposit of engrossing stills, video and TV clips, remarkable archive footage, intimate home movies, refreshing sound bites from many of his hit songs and many friends of the likable entertainer who are eager to share with us their warm opinions of the seemingly generous man. This is essential viewing for fans, who will be surprised to see footage never seen before by the public, and, I would imagine, those interested to see how Harrison reacts in these candid snapshots to living with such enormous wealth and celebrity and a burning desire to find an inner peace through his spiritual yearnings and music. Harrison is considered the most spiritual Beatle who brought the band under the influence of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and who accepted that the material world was maya, an illusionary state not to be one’s final goal in life but a place that gives him a chance to practice for a good death so he can possibly meet his Maker and not return again to the material world.

Scorsese, in this two-part film, takes us through many of Harrison’s ventures from bankrolling Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, his commitment to Indian mysticism, the guitar player’s love of the sitar and composing songs, two marriages, his at times heavy drug usage, his diverse friendships, his withdrawal from the limelight after 1967 to his death in 2001, his dealing with cancer discovered in 1997, his being violently attacked in his home by a knife wielding maniac intruder and the joy he got from hanging out with his creative pals.

Scorsese shows his love for Harrison by treating him with such justified dignity, and gives us a rich biopic that remains objective, crowd-pleasing in a good way, filled with fine nuggets of the icon’s life and shows the superstar as a genuine seeker of knowledge attempting to make sense out of his complicated life in an intelligent way.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”