HBO Documentary Films: GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD PART I and II

By Jef Dinsmore on Dec 31, 2014 to Documentaries

Doc-logoOverview: GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD focuses the imaginative and inspired eye of one of cinema’s most preeminent filmmakers on one of the world’s most influential men. The film takes viewers on the musical and spiritual voyage that was George Harrison’s life, much of it told in his own words. The result is a deeply moving work.

Doc_GeorgeHarrisonAcademy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese traces Harrison’s life from his musical beginnings in Liverpool through his life as a musician, a seeker, a philanthropist and a filmmaker, weaving together interviews with Harrison and his closest friends, performances, home movies and photographs. Much of the material in the film has never been seen or heard before. The result is a rare glimpse into the mind and soul of one of the most talented artists of his generation and a profoundly intimate and affecting work of cinema. The film includes interviews with Eric Clapton, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty, Phil Spector, Ringo Starr and Jackie Stewart. They speak honestly and frankly about George’s many talents and contradictions. 

Comments Scorsese –

“Like so many millions of people, I first came to know George through the music, which was the soundtrack of our world. The Beatles music, those beautifully lyrical guitar breaks and solos, those unforgettable songs of George’s like “I Me Mine” or “If I Needed Someone,” and the images, in magazines, on album covers, the TV appearances, the newsreel footage, the Richard Lester movies; and then there was the world after the Beatles, when George and his music seemed to open up and flower. I will never forget the first time I heard “All Things Must Pass,” the overwhelming feeling of taking in that all glorious music for the first time. It was like walking into a cathedral. George was making spiritually awake music – we all heard and felt it – and I think that was the reason that he came to occupy a very special place in our lives. So when I was offered the chance to make this picture, I jumped at it. Spending time with Olivia [George’s widow] , interviewing so many of George’s closest friends, reviewing all that footage, some of it never seen before, and People_OliviaHarrisonlistening to all of that magnificent music – it was a joy, and an experience I’ll always treasure.”

Notes widow Olivia Harrison (pictured) –

“Martin Scorsese’s intuition towards George was evident the first time we met to discuss this project. He sensed what George was about: his music, his strong beliefs, his art, his place in the Beatles’ story and his extraordinary life afterwards. Marty’s wonderful film has found all of that and more.”

Expectations:  This documentary originally aired in 2011, the year before I started with HBOWatch. Therefore since it was never reviewed for this site I decided to take the opportunity upon this repeated airing. Part I aired on 12.22.14 and Part II on 12.29.14 though I caught it on HBOGo. Part I is 90 minutes and the second half airs for 113 minutes. Mr. Scorsese is quite through with this biographical profile. The Overview above describes what will be seen in the film very well and even informs the viewer how they will feel upon seeing it. It states that that they will be moved. Come on, isn’t that for the viewer to decide for themselves? Even if you don’t commit to the entire work at least watch the trailer.

Gut Reaction: Now didn’t that trailer make you want to get into the head of Harrison, into the music, into the times? This should be everything that was ever said about George Harrison has his contribution to society and the music scene. It is stuffed full of music, interviews, photo stills and videos ranging from the artist’s early life in Liverpool, to Beatle mania, to his later musical influences and his later life. It is as if every scrap of documentation of his life is here. It is as if every person still livingPeople_GeorgeHarrison that associated with him had something to say. It almost makes you feel stupid not being a part of his fan club and realizing how influential, how intelligent, and caring George Harrison was.

Who’d a thought that this man was more than just the “quiet one” of the group? Who’d a thought that he meant much too many and that a biography as through as this would have ever been made? Who’d of thought Martin Scorsese would have made this film at the same time he was shooting Shutter Island? This documentary also won Emmy Awards to boot.

It was a well done piece as is expected from a cinematic master. It was also wisely constructed as a two-part work when presented on HBO. Part I is 95 minutes; Part II is 113 minutes. The first deals with the Beatles era; the Indian influences and the dissolve of the singing sensation. Part II gives us what came after and how Harrison keep on exploring world music, world causes and his family life. Told without voice-over narration you get the traditionally structured “talking heads” recalling the honoree between all the archival footage. The only difference is that you don’t mind the format at all because what is shown and what is said is so well thought out and edited.

Bonus:  Hers is George Harrison with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps

In Conclusion: Simply put, if you want to learn of the man, his journey and his influence there is nothing better than GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD. Binge watch all 208 minutes or break in two segments, but only watch it if you love the Beatles or a good documentary because it just might not interest you otherwise to take up the time. I enjoyed it though.

Next Week: This is the last documentary posting for a couple weeks and for the year. Ha. Ha. There are a few Encore Presentations forthcoming.  AMERICAN WINTER repeats on 01.05 and HIS WAY on 01.12. That latter title has not been reviewed here so we will address it upon its airing.  It is about Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub.     

  • Eleonora Iafano

    I grew up listening to the Beatles (my oldest brother was a HUGE fan). Watching this movie brought back a lot of good memories. I was so sad when George Harrison passed away; he was enormously talented and while everyone thought he was ‘The Quiet Beatle’ – it just goes to show the man was a lyrical and musical genius. When they interviewed Ringo Star and he started to cry, well, I literally burst into tears. The Beatles will always be a huge part of the music industry – their music touched many lives and influenced so many rock acts to this day.










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