Sound And Vision: Peter Jackson
In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we look at The Beatles' Now and Then, directed by Peter Jackson.
It was big news recently: the final Beatles song was here, after decades of no new official singles. It's hard after all to make new music after one of your key bandmembers died. In 1994, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison tried to turn the last demo John Lennon made into a new Beatles song, called Now and Then, but to no avail. The big problem was separating the piano track from John Lennon's voice track, which was too deeply buried in the mix.
Eventually though, with the advance of A.I, there were new ways to separate audio strains. Cue the star of today's Sound and Vision, Lord of the Rings-director and tech-wizard Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson has been all aboard the A.I/ digitalization train for a while now, and has had a working relationship with the two still living Beatles for his Get Back-documentary. That documentary used artificial intelligence to enhance and remaster the sound and visuals of the behind the scene footage of the making of Let It Be. A few years after that documentary, last year in fact, the last living Beatles flew in Peter Jackson to help enhance the audio, and thus establish a whole new John Lennon voice-track, with a little help from his computer friends.
Peter Jackson first tried his hand at this technique with They Shall Not Grow Old, a documentary film that, not to mince words, I detest and find ghoulish. That film 'enhanced' historical World War one footage, remastered it, colorized it and Peter Jackson even went as far to fabricate new sound for the footage to 'bring history to life'. The effect is not so much a historical documentary, as it is turning real life horrors into The Wizard of Oz. He is Ted Turnering history, like the powerful cable television mogul not leaving history untouched but instead blemishing it by using techniques like colorization, turning classic footage into an attraction.
And now Peter Jackson is at it again with the music video for Now and Then, that uses a lot of existing footage of The Beatles over the ages, splices them together, as if time and space were blurred. The footage is mostly of a young John Lennon and Paul McCartney goofing around. You can hear Peter Jackson thinking "aren't they rascals?". But splicing the droll footage together with the making of the track doesn't so much come across as playful. Instead it almost seems like the young Lennon and McCartney are mocking the musicians. To paraphrase Jurassic Park, Peter Jackson was so 'preoccupied with whether or not [he] could, [he] didn't stop to think if [he] should". The whole music video leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Weekend at Bernies with the Beatles, propping up the corpses of the two dead band-members for a bit of money and a lark. To mention one of the few great films Peter Jackson did make... it's all a bit in Bad Taste.