Director Ron Howard takes advantage of the wealth of archival photos and videos of the Beatles to recreate their touring years in his most recent film, Eight Days A Week. The documentary captures that sense of wonder that fans of the Beatles once had as this new phenomenon emerged and became a cultural icon. The style of the documentary is straightforward, as is the narrative, which follows a chronological, linear direction. The talking heads in the documentary are interspersed with stills and abundant video footage of the Beatles in action, some of it never seen until now.
The early years showcase the apparent ease with which the musicians approached their craft. The earlier songs are simple, and that simplicity was matched by the youthful attitude of the foursome. The tunes are as catchy as ever, and some of the talking heads utilize lots of commonplace phrases such as “they had great stage presence.” Indeed, it took little for the band to become noticed and garner the cult following that now is synonymous with an entire movement.
The young men did not take themselves too seriously. They had fun in the beginning. Paul McCartney talks about how their manager Brian Epstein insisted they get suits, so all four band members got matching suits by a professional tailor. McCartney talks about these matching suits as a revelation, how they made a difference in the group’s demeanor and brought them closer together. Or, in his words, “suddenly we were a four-headed monster.” It was the beginning of the better times for the band, which started out as a very close-knit group.
The footage in Eight Days A Week, captures that sensation of newness and while most of us have seen that footage of screaming, adoring, hypnotized fans; the documentary provides the context wherein that infectious burst of energy was possible. While music from The Beatles is now embedded into Western popular culture, the relationship to these songs depends on the context of the listener; there are generational differences as to how The Beatles are perceived. No doubt that Eight Days A Week will be an easy and enjoyable watch for Beatles fans, but for the younger cohorts or those who are not as well-versed on the myth of this iconic band – such as myself —the documentary is also a welcomed learning experience to the significant shift in public discourse through popular culture.
One of the most interesting sections of the documentary entails the description of the political atmosphere at the time and the role the Beatles played in it. Howard includes in the documentary how the Beatles played a role in racial politics in the U.S. In one of the most moving scenes of the documentary, a black woman describes her experience with segregation and how going to a concert by the band was the first time she was able to partake in an activity alongside white people without feeling less than. It is not only striking to hear her account over the images and videos that run in the background, but also a strong reminder of how recent this history really is.
Eight Days a Week runs 129 minutes and is not rated. It opens in our South Florida area at the Coral Gables Art Cinema and the Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale (now renamed Savor Cinema) on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. On Sept. 23, it expands to O Cinema Miami Beach. For nationwide screenings click here. Abramorama provided all images used in this post and a screener link for the purpose of this review.