As I walked out of a general audience screening of Eight Days A Week, I heard a mature gentlemen say to his female companion, “I’m not sure it was worth $18”. That is the across-the-board price Australian cinemas are charging for Ron Howard’s documentary on The Beatles’ touring years, and the patron’s not wrong. There is very little here that was not done better in the epic television documentary The Beatles Anthology (1995) and not a lot that will be revelatory to Beatles fans of any level.
What’s being touted is new footage, and there is that. I’d never seen, for example, footage from concerts in Manilla and Tokyo, and that stuff is definitely interesting. Perhaps more importantly, the audio, which has been painstakingly sourced and fiddled with, is giving us better sound from even live appearance footage we’ve seen before many times. This time, instead of the girls, we hear the band. And you know what? They rock a little harder than you might expect from their tamer television appearances.
Also included in your ticket price is a half-hour edit of The Beatles At Shea Stadium, which follows the ninety minute film. But – as Paul himself says in the documentary! – the Beatles couldn’t hear themselves play at that gig, with shocking results. Likewise, the cleaned-up sound for this “bonus, only-in-cinemas” content only highlights the mediocrity of the playing. Paul, in particular, sounds awful.
What saves the whole thing, of course, are The Beatles. I could simply live in their endless company – they were so charismatic, charming, funny and adorable in this period. And that is no small thing. Indeed, if you’ve got the eighteen bucks, there is absolutely no reason not to see Eight Days A Week, because it’s still two hours in the company of four of the most enjoyable people ever.