Apple Corps Ltd./Disney +
Peter Jackson’s epic rock documentary The Beatles: Come Back, which stumbled across Disney + over Thanksgiving week, is a collection of small, intimate moments of collaboration. Despite the group’s status and the pressure they were under at the time of recording, the film has a playful and mischievous quality that is reflected in the way the members interact with each other. Basically, it’s a movie about the riff: musically, comically, professionally, romantically, and socially. And memes, broadly defined as jokes you make on the internet for the enjoyment of others, are also basically a form of riffing.
So it makes sense that To recover, which lasts 468 minutes in three parts, would serve as a breeding ground for the growth of very, very good memes. John, Paul, George and Ringo had their issues and disagreements, which Jackson and his team recount in great detail and with all the length one expects from the director of the the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit prequels. The guys, reeling from the loss of their manager Brian Epstein and grappling with their own individual musical ambitions, argued, fought and exchanged icy glances across the recording studio as they did So be it. But they also sang in silly voices and teased each other as friends often do. They blundered.
Many of the best jokes on To recover don’t require you to have seen it and they really only require a cursory understanding of The Beatles. Here’s one that caught my eye even before the show was released.
Here’s another one that works almost without context.
Sometimes all you have to do is mix The Beatles with another figure in British 1960s culture.
Or choose an American icon who shares a name with a certain moody Beatle.
Or combine an image from the show with another classic song.
Not to take anything away from what Jackson and the project editors were able to achieve, but there is a formal “film-as-data-dump” aspect to To recover that makes it especially appealing to anyone looking to make memes out of it. The story is told with a lot of craftsmanship, especially in scenes like the conversation between John and Paul around the hidden microphone in flowerpot in part two. The sprawling quality encourages the viewer to seek out ephemeral little pieces to twist and create your own. After all, that’s what the members themselves primarily do throughout the film: listen to and react to each other.
To be clear, I’m not saying that making a meme is an artistic accomplishment when it comes to writing “Let It Be” or “Don’t Let Me Down”. Obviously this is not the case. But the cowardly and cheerful tone of To recover is truly inspiring in the way it makes you look at the world. It might even make you pick up a guitar, open that newspaper, or pick up a paintbrush. Or, it might inspire you to post, a noble way to spread your silliest ideas across the universe.
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