Seen last year on pay cable, George Harrison Living in the Material World, a film directed by Martin Scorsese is now widely available on DVD. It’s a two disk set divided into the two parts seen successively on HBO for a total of 229 minutes. There are a few extra scenes and interview snippets as special features, which are nice but not much. I especially felt the absence of some full song performances as were included in the DVD of Scorsese’s film on Bob Dylan. His music grows more impressive with time. [The image above begins and ends this film.]
Scorsese makes some strange cuts and a few significant omissions, but the major biographical elements are there: the Beatles and post-Beatles music, Harrison’s spiritual journey, his invention of the all-star benefit with the Concert for Bangla Desh, and his involvement in film (he mortgaged his house to finance Monty Python’s The Life of Brian.) It’s a rounded if impressionistic portrait. While interviewees speak of the necessarily intense bond among the Beatles, Scorsese shows images of hysterical fans and the rest of the crazed context. Eric Clapton recalls how magical they were as a group, even moving in ways special to themselves.
[Photo above: Olivia Harrison with director Martin Scorsese] On second viewing, some of the rhyming scenes emerge: for instance, early in the film, Dahni relates a recent dream in which he asks his father where’s he’s been and George replies, “I’ve been here all the time.” Much later, Tom Petty describes a phone conversation the day after Roy Orbison’s death (he, Orbison, Harrison plus Bob Dylan and Jeff Lyne were then recording as the Traveling Wilburys) in which Harrison said, “he’s still around."
His humor was also an evident trait, one which rates at most memorable to Paul McCartney. Olivia describes in detail the horrific attack that injured both she and George, who was stabbed. But as he was being taken away on a stretcher, he noticed a workman who had just that day joined the crew helping him with landscaping. George said to him, "So how do you like the job so far?"
Two other moments stand out in this companionable film. After John Lennon’s death, a reporter observed to George that Lennon “was no angel.” “No, he wasn’t,” Harrison said, “but he was, as well.” “Was he?” “Yeah.”
Son Dahni, Olivia and producer George Martin
Olivia, Scorsese and Paul McCartney.