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The Beatles Yellow Submarine Ann Arbor 2012

Yellow Submarine

Psychedelic days of yore

by James Leonard

Published in July, 2012

I just watched The Beatles' 1968 cartoon movie Yellow Submarine again for the first time in forty-four years, and I'm glad I did. Whether or not you'll feel the same after watching it at the Michigan Theater on Sunday afternoon, July 8, or Tuesday evening, July 10, as part of Bell's Summer Classic Film series, will depend on who you are.

If you're a big Beatles fan, you likely will enjoy it. Though the voices are dubbed by actors and the real John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr appear only in the film's final minutes, the movie's music, most of it from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, includes four more songs from the same period that don't appear elsewhere: McCartney's "All Together Now," Lennon's "Hey Bulldog," and Harrison's "It's Only A Northern Song" and "It's All Too Much."

If you're nostalgic for those psychedelic days of yore, you likewise will probably be glad you went. Produced by Al Brodax, who'd produced most of ABC's animated Beatles TV show, and designed by German poster artist Heinz Edelmann, the animation is bold and vibrant--and completely changes tone, palette, and composition every five minutes. For the right person, watching it could bring back who knows what forgotten memories.

If you're a little kid, you'll also more than likely be glad you saw it. The movie's characters are simple--the Beatles are good guys, the bad guys are blue--its plot simpler--music saves the day--and its message simpler still: "All You Need Is Love." What parent could argue with that take-away?

And if you're a stoner, you'll way more than likely be glad you went. Taking its pop culture visual cues from Peter Blake, Salvador Dali, and whoever else came to hand, the movie's landscapes turn into clouds that turn into birds that turn into beasts that turn into women that shimmer, waver, melt, and reform into something else entirely, leaving the viewer only the script's sly wit and painful puns to

...continued below...

hold on to.

Of course if you're a moviegoer looking for the latest summer blockbuster, you'll likely be bored stiff because even though the movie opens with an invasion and ends with a rebellion, it's incredibly nonviolent and very little stuff blows up. And if you're a cineaste with a sense of history, you might be disappointed by the film's lack of psychological depth compared with Bergman's contemporary Hour of the Wolf. But if you can turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream, you're guaranteed a splendid experience.     (end of article)

[Originally published in July, 2012.]


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