Monday, November 7, 2011

Paul McCartney stars in the Albert Maysles & Bradley Kaplan doc THE LOVE WE MAKE

When TrustMovies invited a friend to the press screening of the new documen-tary THE LOVE WE MAKE -- a film by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan that details the experience of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney during and after September 11, 2001 -- the response was immediate and firm: "Although I'm an admirer of Maysles, I cannot abide McCartney. Thanks, anyway."
I was surprised. What's not to abide?

While I haven't paid that much attention to the fellow above, since his Beatles days, at least, but in the meantime hearing and liking (or not) an occasional song, I am indeed a fan of Maysles and would want to view whatever he was currently interested in. And "currently," I guess, is the key word here, because the film is anything but, as it celebrates McCartney and the concert he organized that took place a decade ago last month.

On that "historic" morning when the attacks occurred, McCartney was on an airplane waiting to fly out of New York City. Grounded, he came back into the city and saw some of what was going on and determined to organize an all-star benefit concert which eventually took place on October 20, 2001, as The Concert for New York City. Kaplan and Maysles (shown respectively, at left and right, above), shooting on 16mm, black-and-white film, recorded McCart-ney in and out of his chauffeured car, meeting fans, organizing the event and rehearsing with his band, and at various interviews (Dan Rather's and Howard Stern's stand out, for differing reasons).

McCartney on the streets of the city, interacting with fans, is shot with Maysles' usual fly-on-the-wall footage, in which the photographer never intrudes. In fact, the only intrusive moment comes when McCartney introduces the documentarian to Billy Joel -- who clearly doesn't know who the filmmaker is and cracks a joke about measles and Maysles. Some interesting moments come as McCartney tries to be genuine and friendly with fans while keeping his distance and nurturing the ability to beat a hasty retreat when necessary. I suspect that the film will prove most affecting to fans who hang on the musician's every word. Others of us may find our mind wandering.

The in-rehearsal sections, which are strewn throughout (the editing, swift and conscious of pacing, is by Ian Markiewicz), are interesting, as well, and lead into the final section of the film, in which footage of the actual concert -- in color, and I am guessing not filmed by Maysles or Kaplan -- is inserted so that we get the sense of closure/nostalgia that may result, for some, in an emotional wave of remembrance and feeling. There is no doubt that Mr. McCartney deserves immense praise for having organized this concert, corraling so many top names, and bringing it all to fruition a mere 40 days from the time of the attack.

Hearing all the songs again, and seeing the policemen and firefighters being honored cannot help but bring back memories and pain. But for some, perhaps many, there may be other things going on. After a time, when one famous person, and then another and another shows up and takes his screen time, an unappealing sense of celebrity-its and entitlement affixes itself to the proceedings. And snippets of song after song, does not allow any of them to register as strongly as they might (for me, the one song, as performed and heard here, that seems to hold up brilliantly, deeply is James Taylor's Fire and Rain).

Even the then-new song that McCartney has written for the proceedings, Freedom, comes freighted with much more baggage now than the then-current and rather simple idea that we can't let the terrorists win by taking away our freedom. So much has happened to the USA meantime -- revealing our country to be as much of an aggressor as a victim, and to be so much less concerned with the welfare of its people and their environment than with the welfare of its rulers -- that McCartney's song, which the musician is shown rehearsing over and over and then performing, takes on a much darker shade. Instead of what I imagine the musician wanted us to think about then, now we might recall Orwell's Newspeak, or at the very least that Janis Joplin lyric: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." 

The Love We Make (an Eagle Rock Entertainment release, running 94 minutes) is an interesting documentary, all right, if not quite in the way the filmmakers originally intended. It opens for a two-week run at Film Forum beginning this Wednesday, November 9, when Maysles and Kaplan will make personal appearances at the 8pm screening that opening evening. As you may be able to see (if you squint those eyes) at the head of the poster, top, this is "A Showtime Original Documentary," and so we shall see it eventually on cable TV.

(All photos are from the film -- except for that of Kaplan and Maysles, which was taken as the two accepted an award 
for their film Muhammad and Larry at 
photo courtesy of Marc Bryan-Brown Photography

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