Cinema Libre // 2011 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // October 20th, 2012
"It's not surprising that, over the years, when I met somebody who told me they had a personal story about themselves and The Beatles, I was all ears." -- Seth Swirsky
In 2004, Seth Swirsky, himself a musician, started videotaping stories about people who encountered The Beatles. Just in case you're that rare person who thinks I'm talking about Volkswagens, The Beatles was a band consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. As you watch Beatles Stories, you can't possibly fail to realize that they were the band for those who were teens or young adults during their short career together. Even other musicians of note -- Art Garfunkel, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, and Smokey Robinson, to name but a few -- get excited about meeting The Beatles as they talk with Swirsky.
Some interviews hit home how much The Beatles have meant to our culture, then and now: Davy Jones of The Monkees, Mitzi McCall, and Charlie Brill recall being on The Ed Sullivan Show the night of The Beatles' first appearance; Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay shows off George Harrison's very collectible guitar; and a celebrity fundraiser clip with Jack Benny, the perpetual thirty-nine-year-old teenybopper, talking about his Beatles fandom.
At the same time, a few interviews remind viewers The Beatles may have been legends, but were ordinary blokes, too. Henry Winkler tells the story of the time Paul McCartney recognized him as The Fonz from Happy Days on the street; Frank Gifford recalls seeing John Lennon meet future President Ronald Reagan at a football game; singer/songwriter Jackie de Shannon recalls forgetting a riff from her own song when George Harrison asked about it, and ending up playing Monopoly with him; and Philadelphia newscaster Larry Kane recalls the time John Lennon showed up to do the weather.
You'll get glimpses of Swirsky's own enthusiasm for The Beatles during Beatles Stories, as when he tries Harrison's guitar, but that enthusiasm really shows throughout the commentary, as does his commitment to tracking down every lead. Also here are bonus stories (including a paleontologist's explanation of how the first female got named for "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" that really should have made it into the documentary), an extended interview with sound engineer Norman "Normal" Smith, and a trailer. There's around an hour of bonus material.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 widescreen, Swirsky shot these stories on videotape with mostly natural or available light, which isn't perfect but at times lends an intimate personal feel. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is perfectly adequate for a talking head presentation.
For Beatles fans, the case is simple: it's Beatles Stories. For someone who likes The Beatles but grew up after their breakup, the expressions and voices of the storytellers will fill you in on how big they were.
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Stories