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Let It Be

Ending On a Good Note: Let It Be

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For the first time in over 50 years, The Beatles’ 1970 documentary, Let It Be, has finally been re-released. The new restoration (supervised by Peter Jackson) is now streaming on Disney+ with an intro by Jackson and the film’s original director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

Let It Be is a movie I’d always wanted to see ever since I first read about it in a biography about The Beatles (a biography that I read over and over as it was one of the few non-Lemony Snicket books in my elementary school library that I actually wanted to read). It had always been my understanding that the film was seen as a bit of a failure. It was known to be a document of their breakup and the fights that led to it and was, by most, assumed to be footage of The Beatles arguing for 80 minutes.

But what I found was something different.

Perhaps its reputation was soured because of the time it came out. The breakup had just been announced, and people went into it expecting it to be miserable. Every shot of Yoko reminded the viewers of how the whole thing might have been “her fault” (despite the fact that she doesn’t say a single word for the entire film). And I’m not saying Yoko’s presence didn’t contribute to their breakup but that their breakup was affected by many different things, and it seems silly to blame that all on someone who barely spoke to three quarters of the band. But that’s beside the point.

What I found in Let It Be was actually something very different. Not the document of a group of musicians entering their inevitable downfall but a celebration of their process and the final two albums they would make together.

Let It Be 2Filmed during the writing and recording of Let It Be and Abbey Road, the documentary focuses on the four Beatles working together to craft some of their most beloved songs. It’s taken from the same footage Peter Jackson used in his Get Back documentary, and similarly, it doesn’t utilize narration or talking head interviews like most documentaries would. But where it differs from Get Back is in the footage we see. And though it’s often lacking context (we’re never told why they had to move studios, but for those of us who’ve seen the first part of Get Back, we know it’s because George had left and only agreed to come back if the change took place), it still serves as a very important and entertaining music documentary.

The tensest moment in the film comes from a brief, passive aggressive interaction between George and Paul, and aside from this, it features no arguing or huge conflicts whatsoever. And to some that might be a disappointment, as it doesn’t offer the most exciting story, but to others, Let It Be serves as an insightful look into the process of one of the most famous bands creating some of their most famous work.

The climax takes place when the band decides to perform a sudden, final concert on the roof. And though they only play a handful of songs, getting to see this performance unfold is something really special. In a lot of ways, Let It Be and The Beatles’ breakup mark the end of the ’60s, specifically its music, and seeing that moment play out is pretty exciting. 

I think my favorite moment of Let It Be is a pretty simple one. It’s a short scene of George helping Ringo write “Octopus’s Garden.” This scene in particular shows that Let It Be is the exact opposite of what I’d always thought it would be. And though I probably would have enjoyed watching a documentary of a favorite band arguing (I guess I still have Oasis for that), what I got was something unexpectedly pleasant. And if anything, I left with an even greater appreciation of a band I already loved.

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