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on October 10, 2011
I just finished watching this on cable over the span of the last two days, parts 1 and 2, but as far as I'm concerned they could have run the entire documentary in one day, and I would have sat through the entire 5-hour uminterrupted run. A nicely done biography courtesy of Martin Scorsese on the life, music, and personality of "the quiet Beatle." Although some of the editing was a bit choppy on some of the musical footage, I found the biography to be a fascinating look into a performer I didn't really know about as much as I thought I did.

One thing you come away with is that George, in his aspiration to spread love, was greatly loved in return by friends and family for a lot of obvious reasons. What was really nice to see is that he was accepted with his moody side as well, something lots of people look at in others first, disregarding the rest. Of all the people interviewed for commentary, the most inciteful ones seemed to be Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, and wife Olivia.

George's religious philosophy and world views may not necessarily be eye to eye with your own, but anyone who is trying to make a difference in the lives of the lesser off and is a true advocate for positive change is a good icon for the world at large. Apparently the quiet Beatle had a gift for reaching out and opening people's minds at a one-on-one level, though not good at delivering speeches in front of thousands. He was obviously very personable, candid, and passionate about the things that he believed in. That passion--or any--can make an orator out of a mute. Funny how one of the most telling things about him was his eyes! You can see the depths of his emotions constantly, and maybe the weight of the world was something he placed too firmly on his own shoulders. You would be moody too!

In contrast, we see he had a very playful side, loved mischief, and got simple joy out of colors, flowers, and close friendships. Unfortunately, the mischief veered into unfortunate territory for the main women in his life, and Olivia makes it plain in what she says about him--or, rather, what she DOESN'T say. "The key to a long marriage...Don't get divorced," speaks volumes on her thoughts about his quirks and aberrant behavior. She was trying to be graceful without giving details, but not too many people appreciate infidelity. Was he a good husband? Well, it's very obvious she loved him, which covers up a multitude of foibles. Was he a good father? It certainly looked like it to me, because Dhani seems to be a good kid, and boy, he sure looks a lot like his dad! Was he a good friend? Undoubtedly. Was he a great spiritualist? He tried his hardest with lots of success. Was he a great musician? Ringing affirmative!

Moments that stand out in the film:
George standing protectively by John's side after Stu Sutcliffe passed away while Astrid shot their photos.

George laughing and singing along to "This Boy" while viewing an old Beatle performance.

Eric Clapton's recounting the entire Patty Boyd situation.

The wonderful footage of that huge, sprawling mansion.

All the interviews with Tom Petty, from the funny ukelele story to his recounting of George's post Orbison death comment: "Aren't you glad it's not you?" Well, at least he was bold enough to say what most people are thinking anyway.

The music footage, of course, and getting to see nearly everyone who was anybody in it!

The most touching part for me was after that lunatic broke into the estate, nearly killing George and Olivia, forcing them to have to fight back. The results of the attack seemed to bring out the best thing for George in his preparation for death: closure. His telling Olivia that he finally figured out he really had to let go of all his bitterness and be more forgiving made me want to take stock in the way I've been conducting my own life, and maybe it's time to be more spiritual myself. No matter what your faith is, forgiveness can do wonderful things--well, I've generally seen it in other people.

To sum it up, this was an excellent account of George's life because it didn't put him on a sugary pedestal. It was brutally and delightfully honest, portraying the man as a multi-talented, intelligent, loving, spiritual human being with flaws like anyone else. His major goal toward the end of his life was to be more and more God conscious. In closing, all I can say is bless you, George.
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on October 5, 2011
A documentary on a music celebrity can be measured by content and insight - what footage did they access and who was willing to contribute and what new light did it shed on the subject? On the first point Martin Scorsese knocks the ball out of the park. Though I didn't feel I knew George any better than before by the end, I was treated to nearly four hours of dazzling and emotionally moving entertainment.

I watched both parts of the film at UK preview and at no point did my attention or enthusiasm flag. In fact I would have happily sat through any outtakes! This beautifully crafted film is packed with concert footage, home movies, press conferences, interviews, photos and documents that I've never seen before, even though I've been researching the Beatles quite heavily for several years for Beatles Songwriting Academy. There are interviews with (or at least footage of) everyone you would hope to see. Beatles, wives, brothers, son, Pythons and peers. Everyone from Eric Clapton to Eric Idle.

The documentary is constructed entirely from interviews and clips without explanation or analysis. The closest we get to a voiceover is Dhani Harrison reading excerpts from his father's diary and letters to his mum. Though the film is visually stunning it's strange watching the practically square picture forced upon us by the source material. Equally quirky is the sound editing. Scorsese doesn't know the meaning of 'fade'. All the music cuts brutally, sometimes after a few seconds. Sometimes this is cool. Mostly it's odd. The film is largely chronological and there are some great juxtapositions of sound and visuals like All Things Must Pass accompanies footage of the WW2 bombers that plagued the Liverpool of Harrison's birth. The first part covers George's life up to the White Album.

It's hard to pick out favourite parts. But Harrison's obvious delight watching archive footage of the Beatles miming This Boy, laughing and singing along, is one. The Beatles performing If I Needed Someone, Harrison playing What Is Love? with Billy Preston, and seeing the Travelling Wilburys in the studio would be others.

There are moments of laugh out loud humour, especially TV footage of crusty professors discuss the significance of Pop music while Beatles and Mick Jagger seeth like captive wild animal in the background and Tom Petty recounting Harrison arriving at his house with a trunk full of ukeleles. But Harrison's story of how Lennon and McCartney inspired him to start composing is the best - "If John and Paul can write [songs] everybody must be able to". The Maharishi (a spiritual Joe Pasquali) and Phil Spector (a croaking, unblinking vision of craziness with a permanent twitching thumb) also provide some unintentional humour.

Scorsese deserves praise for not going down the revisionist myth making route trodden by the Anthology series, especially as Olivia Harrison was one of his producers. Olivia is honest, though vague, about George's infidelity as is Klaus Voorman is about his drug problems. But the lack of a narrator almost makes George a mirror in which we see his world. We know he was loved, deeply, by friends - racing drivers, comedians and film makers, musicians, but we don't whether he was truly loveable. Terry Gilliam describes George as a mix of "grace, humour and a weird kind of angry bitterness" but what made him that way? Did he ever find a release from that bitterness? Was he a good father? Nearing death Harrison asked Olivia if he had been a good husband. She never tells us what her answer was."What's the secret of a long marriage?" She asks herself. "Don't get divorced".

It may sound strange but the highest point for me was simply hearing the music. Listening to Here Comes The Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps I was almost moved to tears at the transcendent beauty of those recordings.

Perhaps the fact that the film cause me to fall in love with the music all over again is it's greatest recommendation.
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on October 21, 2011
A documentary on a music celebrity can be measured by content and insight - what footage did they access and who was willing to contribute and what new light did it shed on the subject? On the first point Martin Scorsese knocks the ball out of the park. Though I didn't feel I knew George any better than before by the end, I was treated to nearly four hours of dazzling and emotionally moving entertainment.

I watched both parts of the film at UK preview and at no point did my attention or enthusiasm flag. In fact I would have happily sat through any outtakes! This beautifully crafted film is packed with concert footage, home movies, press conferences, interviews, photos and documents that I've never seen before, even though I've been researching the Beatles quite heavily for several years for Beatles Songwriting Academy. There are interviews with (or at least footage of) everyone you would hope to see. Beatles, wives, brothers, son, Pythons and peers. Everyone from Eric Clapton to Eric Idle.

The documentary is constructed entirely from interviews and clips without explanation or analysis. The closest we get to a voiceover is Dhani Harrison reading excerpts from his father's diary and letters to his mum. Though the film is visually stunning it's strange watching the practically square picture forced upon us by the source material. Equally quirky is the sound editing. Scorsese doesn't know the meaning of 'fade'. All the music cuts brutally, sometimes after a few seconds. Sometimes this is cool. Mostly it's odd. The film is largely chronological and there are some great juxtapositions of sound and visuals like All Things Must Pass accompanies footage of the WW2 bombers that plagued the Liverpool of Harrison's birth. The first part covers George's life up to the White Album.

It's hard to pick out favourite parts. But Harrison's obvious delight watching archive footage of the Beatles miming This Boy, laughing and singing along, is one. The Beatles performing If I Needed Someone, Harrison playing What Is Love? with Billy Preston, and seeing the Travelling Wilburys in the studio would be others.

There are moments of laugh out loud humour, especially TV footage of crusty professors discuss the significance of Pop music while Beatles and Mick Jagger seeth like captive wild animal in the background and Tom Petty recounting Harrison arriving at his house with a trunk full of ukeleles. But Harrison's story of how Lennon and McCartney inspired him to start composing is the best - "If John and Paul can write [songs] everybody must be able to". The Maharishi (a spiritual Joe Pasquali) and Phil Spector (a croaking, unblinking vision of craziness with a permanent twitching thumb) also provide some unintentional humour.

Scorsese deserves praise for not going down the revisionist myth making route trodden by the Anthology series, especially as Olivia Harrison was one of his producers. Olivia is honest, though vague, about George's infidelity as is Klaus Voorman is about his drug problems. But the lack of a narrator almost makes George a mirror in which we see his world. We know he was loved, deeply, by friends - racing drivers, comedians and film makers, musicians, but we don't whether he was truly loveable. Terry Gilliam describes George as a mix of "grace, humour and a weird kind of angry bitterness" but what made him that way? Did he ever find a release from that bitterness? Was he a good father? Nearing death Harrison asked Olivia if he had been a good husband. She never tells us what her answer was."What's the secret of a long marriage?" She asks herself. "Don't get divorced".

It may sound strange but the highest point for me was simply hearing the music. Listening to Here Comes The Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps I was almost moved to tears at the transcendent beauty of those recordings.

Perhaps the fact that the film cause me to fall in love with the music all over again is it's greatest recommendation.
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on May 6, 2012
Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese's documentary on the late Beatle George Harrison, GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD, named after the singer's 1973 album of the same name, was released in the U.K. last fall on DVD and Blu-ray, and aired in the U.S. on HBO. Finally, the U.S. DVD/Blu-ray is out, and it is well worth the wait.

The film airs in two parts: Part 1 covers George's life from his Liverpool childhood through the height of Beatlemania and beyond. Part 2 begins with the White Album-era tensions between The Beatles, and the group's eventual split, then focuses on George's solo career and his personal life. There is one significant gap: the documentary seems to skip from his 1974 U.S. tour (essential unseen footage here) to the Traveling Wilburys era, and leaves out his Dark Horse Records solo work from 1976-1992, including his 1987 comeback album Cloud Nine and his 1991 tour of Japan with Eric Clapton. The Dark Horse Years 1976 - 1992 box set does fill these gaps, as does a recently released iPad Multi-Touch e-book on iTunes. The film's most glaring omission is during the segment on John Lennon's murder and its effect on George, which unfortunately does not mention Harrison's wonderful tribute song, "All Those Years Ago," recorded with the other surviving Beatles, which was a #2 hit for George in 1981.

The film does cover Harrison's career as a filmmaker with his company HandMade Films, including such hits as LIFE OF BRIAN and TIME BANDITS, with a brief mention of The Rutles thrown in for good measure, but wisely skips HandMade's Sean Penn/Madonna box office flop, SHANGHAI SURPRISE. It also candidly deals with George's near-fatal 1999 stabbing and his ultimately losing battle with cancer.

There's much archival footage of George throughout, much of it from The Beatles Anthology, including some outtakes, There are highlights of his musical career too, including the best-sounding versions of The Beatles' 1962 Hamburg Star-Club tapes that I have ever heard. Whoever did the remastering on those songs should be hired by Apple for a proper rerelease of those tracks. There are interviews with Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Sir George Martin, the late Neil Aspinall, George's lifelong friends Eric Clapton and Ravi Shankar, fellow Wilburys Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, his wife Olivia and son Dhani, race-car drivers Jackie Stewart and Gordon Murray (George loved Formula One racing, and even wrote a song about it ("Faster," from 1979's George Harrison album)), and others. Pattie Boyd Clapton, George's first wife, speaks candidly about their troubled marriage, and her affair with Eric Clapton, who she would subsequently marry and divorce. Even convicted murderer "Crazy Phil" Spector gets into the mix, discussing the production of All Things Must Pass [BOXED EDITION] and The Concert for Bangladesh (Limited Deluxe Edition) - the interview was probably done before his imprisonment.

Overall, the film is a fine, loving tribute to George, just as the late David L. Wolper's Imagine: John Lennon (Deluxe Edition) was for John.

The Deluxe Edition contains the film on two DVDs, and a single-disc Blu-ray. Both have eleven bonus features, including six (not specifically indicated on the packaging) that are not on the standard DVD or Blu-ray release.

The four musical features are: 1) George playing his ukelele to (it sounds like) the old standard "A Shine on Your Shoes" (uncredited); 2) a soundcheck of the B-side "Deep Blue" from the Concert for Bangladesh; 3) a segment from Abbey Road Studios where George Martin and son Giles "break down" the master of "Here Comes The Sun," much to the delight of Dhani Harrison; and 4) a Shankar Family and Friends instrumental called "Dispute and Violence," recorded live during the 1974 U.S. tour.

The seven interview segments include pieces on George's growing up in Liverpool, George describing the origins of the poem "The Inner Light," which became the basis for his first Beatles B-side, and interviews with Paul McCartney, Neil Aspinall, Jeff Lynne, and race car drivers Gordon Murray and Damon Hill.

The sort-of soundtrack CD, also available separately as Early Takes Volume 1: Music From The Martin Scorsese Picture Living In The Material World, consists of 10 Harrison demos and alternate takes, most, if not all, from the early-to-mid-1970s.

The four discs are housed in a deluxe gatefold book with a Hamburg-era photo of George on the front cover, and a Linda McCartney photo of George (probably late '60s or early '70s) on the back cover. There are also two stand-alone photos, one from Hamburg, and the other from the mid-'60s, with an easel included, as well as a soft-cover 96-page book, which is an abridged version of the hardback book George Harrison: Living in the Material World. Casual fans who already own the book and don't care about the DVD/Blu-ray extras may want to purchase the standard Blu-ray or DVD editions, and buy the EARLY TAKES CD separately. But for fans who want it all in one felt swoop, this Deluxe Edition is essential.

Happy 70th birthday, George, wherever you are. I hope Olivia is planning a nice tribute (February 25, 2013).
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Following on from his outstanding 2005 documentary of Bob Dylan's early career `No Direction Home' and his excellent series on the blues, Martin Scorsese again proves himself to be a master of the craft of in-depth bio-pic documentary film-making with this glorious, colourful, warts-and-all portrait of George Harrison.

The film is available either on two separate DVDs with the Beatles break-up as the divider, or as one single uninterrupted DVD - if you can take a three-and-a-half hour film in one sitting. Despite its 210-minute running time it never drags and holds the viewer's attention throughout.

The format is a roughly chronological narrative which follows Scorsese's usual `fly-on-the-wall' style of no-voiceover-commentary, allowing for the interviewees - Paul McCartney, Ringo, Eric Clapton, Phil Spector, Jackie Stewart, Klaus Voorman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Olivia and Dhani Harrison and George himself (not a complete list by any means) - to do the talking. The memories are poignant, honest, heartfelt and engaging, offering a mostly sympathetic portrait of this most introspective of Beatles juxtaposed with archive footage and stills from George's long career, plus some live concert and studio sessions.

Some of the most arresting moments explore George's rejection of the trappings of fame, lack of interest in awards and quest for deeper self-knowledge and `spirituality'. Harrison's long friendship with Ravi Shankar and interest in Indian mysticism, his wicked sense of humour and his warm generosity, his love of privacy in his Surrey home which he carefully re-landscaped himself with spade in hand, all reveal a man who strove, sometimes in small ways and sometimes on a big canvas - like his 1971 visionary project to raise money for victims of the Bangladesh famine, a blueprint for Bob Geldof's `Live Aid' project 15 years later - to make the world a better place; to make a difference.

George Harrison was in so many ways an exceptional and atypical rock star, and Martin Scorsese has done him proud with this superb film. If you are of a later generation who missed the 1960s and 1970s, and the name George Harrison means little to you, then seeing this film might be time well spent; it'll give you a flavour of this talented, generous and unusual man. And BTW if you love and appreciate the Pythons' `Life of Brian' - well, it would never have seen the light of day without George, whose financial support enabled the film to be made.
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on November 16, 2011
Thoroughly enjoyed this documentary. Would very much like to purchase this documentary as a Christmas gift. I don't understand why this DVD would be released in one country and not another. What is stopping the public from recording this show off HBO? What is the purpose of waiting for a Spring release in the USA?
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on June 20, 2012
I purchased this complete set of George Harrison Living In The Material World because I wanted to have everything that was released for this film. I did buy the original hard back book Living In The Material World which is fabulous, but I wish that version of the book had been released in this set rather than the shortened version.

Almost two thirds of the film is about George when he was in the Beatles and the rest of the film is about him after the Beatles. Its too bad they didn't cover his life and solo career in as much detail as they did when he was a Beatle. It is almost like he did the All Things Must Pass LP and The Concert For Bengla Desh (concert/film/LP) then didn't do much after that. He toured the United States in 1974 and toured Japan in 1991 which they didn't cover very much. They didn't cover most of the records he released through out his life, but they did cover when he was in the Traveling Wilburys. One of the coolest things in the film was seeing when George and Paul signed paperwork ending the Beatles.

Yes, there was so much of his life from 1961 through 1970, but it would have been nice to see, hear and know what he did for the rest of his 30 years of life. It would have been nice to have the complete hard back book in this set as well as more music on the CD, but they had to delay the release here in the US because HBO had the rights to show the movie before it was released so to put the hard back book in it would have been like buying the same thing again. This set was released immediately in England and through out parts of the world when it was on HBO in the US, but we had to wait for 6 months to get this release.

I have heard there are plans to release more unreleased music in the future which will be nice since the re-issued CD's didn't have much extra on them. I guess artists and record companies feel we, the consumer, don't want extra tracks (demos or unreleased) are getting a good deal by giving us an extra song (single) or 2 (b-side) when a CD is re-released, but it will be nice to finally get some great demos and alternate mixes.

I must say the one thing I never thought about seeing in this movie. A picture was shown of at a press conference George held in Beverly Hills and low and behold I am right there in the middle of the picture. I must say that makes the entire movie for me.

Anyway, this movie is a must have for any Beatle or George Harrison fan, but maybe just by the hard back book, the movie and the CD is all you need to purchase so you don't have to spend so much money to have everything.
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on April 15, 2012
While I'm an enormous fan of George Harrison's musicianship, I wish the documentary would have been more about his POST-BEATLES music. Let's face it folks, through the years, his role in the Beatles has been told many, many times.

If available, I would have preferred more film clips of Harrison -- with a guitar -- in the studio or at least in a more personal setting playing (and/or creating). Nobody has ever delved into his guitar mastery -- that unique and wonderful slide style and his gift of being able to make enormous musical statements with a few notes. Since Harrison was such a private person, I suspect the kind of footage I would have been interested in doesn't exist.
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on June 22, 2012
This is a fabulous Blu-ray. But just as in real life, George gets pushed aside on the DVD. The first half had me wondering why is it entitled "George Harrison" when all you're being shown are The Beatles. But in the second half it's all George and what you will learn (even for Huge Beatle fans) is what a giving and caring person he was. Rich, famous and who cares could have been his motto. And if you've never seen George's son...you'll think you're looking at a 25 year old "inconsequential" Beatle.
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on July 22, 2012
It's official. I now like Martin Scorsese's documentaries more than his dramatic films. I smiled through all four hours of this movie in which the quiet Beatle is not so quiet, nor are those close to him quiet about him. We really get a good look here at a man who made the most of what the world gave him, and who was quite aware of what it all meant in close to real time. That is rare. Most of us, myself included, figure out why we did what we did a bit later, looking back, sorting through it all.

And, without coming out and saying it, the film illuminates why the East-meets-West spiritual path Harrison walked (and pioneered) was such a perfect fit and a success for him, while others, famous and not-so-famous, only managed to annoy those around them with similar inner journeyings. The reason TM and mantras and Krishna-consciousness worked for Harrison is that they were not empty exercises in "self-actualization". He also walked the walk in the materiel world, as demonstrated by his deep love, devotion, and service to others--and his love of life.
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