Beatles fans have two cinematic deliveries coming their way.
In the pipeline is a long-awaited restoration of the 1970 film “Let It Be,” which will follow an entirely new film being assembled by New Zealand director Peter Jackson from rare and never-released images and clips.
Jackson’s film has not been titled, and no release date has been unveiled, but it will draw from the same 55 hours of footage of the Beatles in the recording studio shot 50 years ago this month by English director Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the film that became “Let It Be,” which documented the group’s creative process in the final months of its professional lives together.
“The 55 hours of never-before-seen footage and 140 hours of audio made available to us ensures this movie will be the ultimate ‘fly-on-the-wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about,” Jackson said in a statement. “It’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.”
The announcement, released on Wednesday’s 50th anniversary of the group’s famous rooftop concert above their Apple offices in London, stated that a restored version of Lindsay-Hogg’s long-out-of-circulation film will be released after Jackson’s.
Lindsay-Hogg caught the Beatles as they were working on songs including the title track, “Get Back,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “I Me Mine” and others during sometimes contentious sessions. The troubled soundtrack, the only Beatles studio album not produced by George Martin, was credited to Phil Spector, who was invited by the group to work on the tapes after others were unable to create an album that the Beatles were happy with.
Jackson believes the new film will counter long-held perceptions that the Beatles were at each other’s throats in the sessions that Lindsay-Hogg and his team documented.
“I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth,” Jackson said in his statement. “After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove.
“Sure, there’s moments of drama — but none of the discord this project has long been associated with,” he added. “Watching John, Paul, George and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating — it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate.”
The choice of Jackson represents something of a six-degrees-of-separation selection: Beyond their songwriter, recording and live performances, the Beatles were also deeply interested in filmmaking, from their 1964 debut in Richard Lester’s cinema verite romp “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” the following year to their experimental film-for-television “Magical Mystery Tour” in 1967 and the animated 1968 film “Yellow Submarine.”
At one point the group was exploring the possibility of working with director Stanley Kubrick on a film translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary trilogy “The Lord of the Rings,” a project that never came to fruition. Jackson much later brought the books to the screen in his blockbuster film series.
Wednesday’s announcement said Jackson will work with producer Clare Olssen and editor Jabez Olssen, his collaborators on the World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old.” New Zealand company Park Road Post will handle restoration of the original film footage.
There was no indication whether an alternate soundtrack album will be created of other songs the band worked on during the “Let It Be” sessions.
The project is a partnership between the Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd. and New Zealand’s WingNut Films Ltd. and is being made with full cooperation of surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr; John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono; and George Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison.
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