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George Harrison, ‘Living in the Material World,’ Part One – Movie Review

George Harrison
Apple Corps Limited / Courtesy of HBO

The creative and personal growth of George Harrison during the Beatles‘ rise and unprecedented reign atop the musical world, and the influence that change had on his bandmates and the world around him, is explored in great detail during the first half of Martin Scorsese’s HBO documentary ‘Living in the Material World.’

The film starts out as a fairly typical account of Harrison’s joining forces with Paul McCartney and John Lennon, their club days, eventual recruitment of Ringo Starr and, of course, the band’s meteoric rise to fame. The spotlight does shine on Harrison a bit more than his peers, as McCartney recalls both his unnatural confidence on lead guitar and exotic “turban” hairstyle, and everyone generally notes that George had a calm and presence beyond his years.

As the Beatles get off the touring treadmill and focus on exploring the full depth of their creative talents and personal selves, the film’s focus narrows on Harrison more tightly, showing how meeting up with Ravi Shankar and experimenting with LSD led him on a spiritual quest that would greatly affect those around him.

Harrison eventually moves past drug exploration into meditation and learning at the feet of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and draws his fellow Fab Four mates into the same world. We don’t see the bad turn we know this will eventually take, but the signs of internal conflict within the band, and George’s desire to act on his own accord, are already clearly evident.

This is all documented via a series of photographs, video clips, modern-day interviews with Paul and Ringo, and archived interview footage of Harrison. The first half of ‘Living in the Material World’ doesn’t offer any stunning revelations, but it’s certainly involving viewing throughout, and by telling the story through the lesser-seen viewpoint of the “quiet” Beatle, it does offer some interesting new perspectives.


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