Aiming for something more than the standard-issue concert film, Paul McCartney asked director Richard Lester to follow him around the globe during his 1989-90 world tour. Lester seemed a good choice: In his early Beatles transactions, the brilliant A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and the somewhat less inspired Help! (1965), he shattered the rock-movie genre.
But Lester didn’t make it back to his glory days with Get Back, which has been released on video following a very brief theatrical run in a few cities. In essence, this is the straightforward tour film McCartney supposedly didn’t want: There’s no backstage footage or interviews — just 22 performances from McCartney’s tour set, 15 of them Beatles tunes, the rest from Wings and solo years.
McCartney, backed by a superb band, is in generally good voice, and although anyone could point to a missed favorite, most of the set’s high points — from ”Can’t Buy Me Love” to ”This One” to the ”Abbey Road” medley — are included. Lester’s approach, though, is editing run amok. During Beatles songs, Fab Four footage is woven in, synched to the new McCartney performances. More distracting is the crosscutting within performances. In every song, McCartney’s clothes change from verse to verse, sometimes from line to line. The tearily emoting audiences change too, all of which makes for some uncomfortable displacement. You can’t help wondering, in the end, whether the performances were so interchangeable that such seemingly seamless intercutting was possible. C+