Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle  [DVD]
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At art college in Liverpool in 1959, Stuart Sutcliffe met John Lennon and they soon became close with Lennon persuading Sutcliffe to use the proceeds of a painting he had sold to buy a bass guitar and join his band along with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Before long, with drummer Pete Best now in the line-up, they won a contract in Hamburg playing sleazy clubs in the seedy Reeperbahn area of the city, amidst the casual sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll of the era. The newly-christened Beatles were on their way. With the band on the brink of success, Sutcliffe left the group to concentrate on his first love, art, and his new love, German photographer Astrid Kirchherr. But Stuart's health soon began to decline. On the 10th April 1962, Stuart suffered a seizure and slipped into a coma. As Astrid cradled his head in her hands, Stuart died of a cerebral haemorrhage cutting short the life of the promising young artist. Interviewees include Stuart's fiancée and Beatles stylist/photographer Astrid Kirchherr, early Beatles manager Allan Williams, Stuart's sister, Pauline Sutcliffe, Liverpool flatmate to Sutcliffe and Lennon, Rod Murray and esteemed American art historian and writer Donald Kuspit.
Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle explores the mystique surrounding the Beatles' original bassist, who left the band to follow a different muse and died from a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 22. Told via interviews with an impressive array of Sutcliffe's family and friends - and through uniquely descriptive quotes from his letters - this hour-long documentary reveals a lot of intimate detail about Sutcliffe's transition from promising art-school student in Liverpool (and best friend of John Lennon) to reluctant musician (pressed into service by Lennon) to determined painter within the German avant-garde scene. A lot of Stu's story, as Beatles fans know, is set in Hamburg, during and after the days the group was a house band in the city's red-light district. Familiar tales of friction between Sutcliffe and Paul McCartney abound. But these are offset by a tremendous amount of fresh insight and detail offered by such important Beatles-saga figures as rocker Tony Sheridan, Klaus Voormann and - most crucially - Astrid Kirchherr, the photographer who influenced the Beatles' look and who became Sutcliffe's lover until his death.
A very nice bonus is a gallery feature with a sizable collection of Sutcliffe's early and late paintings. On the downside, The Lost Beatle never mentions the severe head trauma Sutcliffe experienced following a beating by Teddy Boys in Liverpool (an incident that probably led to his death and which has been documented in detail, as recently as Bob Spitz's 2005 book The Beatles: The Biography). Instead, the film tacitly endorses (based on unsubstantiated hearsay from Sutcliffe's sister) an old allegation - dismissed by Kirchherr - that a beating Stu supposedly took from Lennon in Hamburg was, ultimately, the cause of his death. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.See all Product Description
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Stuart Sutcliffe's contribution to the Beatles was considerable. A highly talented artist and creator, he bolstered John's considerable imagination and lent an artsy, more sophisticated influence to what could otherwise have conceivably remnained just another garage band. It was Stuart who bonded with Hamburg hipsters Astrid and Klaus Voorman (who drew the cover of Revolver); the impact of this pair on the band was significant. There's a reason he's on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, unlike the unfortunate Pete Best.
It was quite a treat to see Tony Sheridan - the celebrated bad influence and main attraction on the Beatles' first ever recording - looking very well, given his reputation at that time as a speed and alcohol maniac guitarist. Astrid herself of course is present, as well as Klaus Voorman, Allan Williams, their first manager, Horst Fascher, killer bouncer and Beatles protector at the Hamburg clubs, and other figures from that misty past. If you enjoyed the Beatles biography Shout - to my mind the best book written about them - you'll find the film enthralling.
Also included, a very interesting gallery of Stuart's art, much of it from the Hamburg days, and VERY good.
The history comes in front of us with images, documents, persons and opinions in a decent, well-balanced, objective and impartial display. The choice and succession of quotes, fragments of correspondence, interviews and music are fortunate. The documentary is based on through research, we discover many details related to Stuart's life and death, but more importantly, like all well-done work, it leaves you with the desire and thirst to learn more. Moreover, we are--indirectly, of course--invited to judge with our own minds, to inquiry our hearts, to meditate and try to find our own answers.
Thanks to this documentary you can better understand John's deep sadness and perlexity in some alluring photos, or the poignant nostalgia of In My Life's lyrics and tune.
It is pleasant to see and hear the witnesses of "those days": Pauline Sutcliffe (Stu's sister), Astrid Kirchherr, Klaus Voorman, Tony Sheridan, Allan Williams, Rod Murray--people who knew Stuart and the other Beatles.
I don't know if Stu's contribution to the art world is important or not; if it really is, I don't know if it's due to its originality or to the fact that Stu is the tragic figure entangled with the Beatles' life. Would his paintings figure in the big collections, art albums and museums of the world had he not been a friend of John's or a member of his band? Would we contemplate Stu's art if he hadn't been, for a short while, a poor bass player in the already mythical Indra club? Difficult to give an answer. But is it important to have one?
The documentary is certainly worth watching. Maybe more revealing details from Stu's letters to John would have made it (even) more consistent and relevant.
Through interviews with family members, friends, and of course Astrid Kirchherr. you really get a good picture of who this young man truly was. Such an extraordinary painter and artist. So much passion and heart.
Much has been said about Mr Sutcliffe and his close bond with John Lennon that Sutcliffe as an individual and his impact on Lennon often gets lost. I learned much about their friendship here, as well as the fact that Sutcliffe was a better musician than has been often said and portrayed in the past.
You feel how tragic and premature his death was on those closest to him, as well as the loss for all of us not to see what wonderful art he might have made.
I personally also think this is a good companion piece to the partially fictionalized BackBeat film.
Astrid's contribution seemed very genuine and heart-felt. She really loves Stuart. My heart goes out to her.
For Stuart's sister to say John Lennon caused Stuart's death is absurd. The DVD totally ignores Stuart's savage beating by a gang of Teddy Boys in Liverpool.
To say that John Lennon wanted to be photographed in Stuart's attic studio while happily posing like Stuart is also absurd. It was Astrid that asked John to pose. Conveniently, the photos showing John's (and also George's) grief were also ignored. (Astrid proves all this in the documentary about George Harrison called "Living in the Material World". (I recommend getting that one instead.)
Even to suggest that Stuart and John were lovers is over the top.
Lastly, throughout the entire (BBC) show, only pseudo-Beatles music was played.