I’m not going to lie, I don’t like Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe. It’s an overly indulgent film in search of meaning and direction. There is certainly an indisputable flair fused to the screen, but the visuals only make the experience more numbing than rousing. It’s like a bad trip. Worst of all, Taymor and company can’t quite weave their reworking of Beatles’ songs with the plot, making the use of the quartet’s canon feel blasphemous. In spite of my disdain, there are a handful of scenes and musical numbers that actually connect. The most potent marriage of song and image comes from the film’s opening frames, where Prudence (TV Carpio) sings a stripped down, acoustic version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Wonderfully arranged, the song strikes a chord immediately, but gains more strength when the object of Prudence’s desires are revealed: she’s in love with a fellow cheerleader. Suddenly, the song’s pop roots melt into a somber reflection of a love that can never be. Deepening Prudence’s romantic despair is the setting, a football field in the heart of a blue-collar town. One can only assume this isn’t a progressive environment. The last flourish of the scene finds Prudence walking slowly through a team of football players barbarically tossing each other around. The power of the men means nothing to her. She knows what she wants, but she can’t have it. It’s a moment of longing we all can understand.
Cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel
Director: Julie Taymor