Paul McCartney – The Love We Make Dir: Bradley Kaplan & Albert Maysles

Beatlemania seems to be alive and well. Just after the DVD release of Martin Scorsese’s 3 ½ hour epic documentary about George Harrison (Living In The Material World) comes this. The Love We Make describes itself as, “A chronicle of Paul McCartney’s cathartic journey through New York City in the aftermath of 9/11”. If that sounds like a lot of narcissistic baloney, you may be right.

As McCartney likes to remind us, he was sitting in a plane waiting to take off in New York City when the World Trade Center towers were attacked.  He was so affected by what had happened that he was moved to write a song, Freedom, the following day. He was also asked by promoter Harvey Weinstein to headline a benefit concert to help the families of the police and fire fighters who died during the attack. McCartney dutifully gathered up an all-star roster of performers including The Who, Eric Clapton, Elton John, David Bowie and Billy Joel to take part in The Concert For New York City, that took place on October 20, 2001 at Madison Square Garden.

This documentary follows McCartney around Manhattan in the days before the concert as he gives interviews, rehearses and promotes the show. The majority of the footage was shot by veteran filmmaker Albert Maysles, who along with his (now deceased) brother David, filmed McCartney and The Beatles when they first landed in New York in 1964. The two filmmakers, known for their cinema verite style, also shot The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter film and the 1976 documentary Grey Gardens.

It looks like Maysles used the same camera here as he did in 1964. The footage is grainy black and white and in 4:3 aspect ratio. The audio, though supposedly in 5.1 sounds mostly mono.

Maysles’ celebrated style is supposed to offer the viewer a realistic, fly-on-the-wall look at its subject. Sadly, this never happens with McCartney, who seems very aware of the camera’s presence during every frame of this film. As a result never catch Paul with his guard down, and never see anything but the version of McCartney that he wants us to see. It should be noted that Paul is the Executive Producer of the film.

What we do get is footage of Paul hob-nobbing with newsman Dan Rather, meeting Ozzy Osbourne, appearing on Howard Stern’s radio show and signing autographs for everyone that approaches him.  There are a few fleeting glimpses of Paul and his band rehearsing and a bit a drama is attempted to be drummed up when Paul expresses his nervousness at presenting his new song, Freedom, to his fellow musicians and the audience.

There is backstage footage with Paul hanging out with James Taylor, Sheryl Crow and former President Bill Clinton. It all features plenty of inconsequential small talk and not much else.  The only really emotional footage is that of the concert itself. There are short snippets of performances by Bowie, The Stones, Elton and Bon Jovi. The Who’s footage is most moving, but if you really want to get a feel for what the night was like, buy the DVD of the concert. This one should be left in McCartney’s personal archives.

Marty Duda