“All You Need Is Love”
Across the Universe:
Julie Taymor & The Beatles
By Jen Johans
|Ending the film with Sadie and Jo-Jo’s rooftop concert which was staged like the one
The Beatles performed in Let it Be as Taymor’s cast sings “Don’t Let Me Down,” the
cops bust the performers but not before Jude can break free and sing “All You Need
Is Love” to Lucy who’s standing across the street.
While in reality, The Beatles were stopped by police officers, in this vintage
promotional clip, we see the success of their rooftop rendition as well, from which no
doubt Julie Taymor drew inspiration. However, intriguingly, while there’s an
obvious homage to Romeo and Juliet in the staging of “All You Need Is Love,”
Taymor told ComingSoon.net that she wasn’t aware of this until a producer friend
pointed it out to her and afterwards, she realized she wasn’t conscious of all her
allusions. “As artists,” she told the interviewer, “things filter through you and then
they come out hopefully in a fresh way.” I think you’ll agree after viewing these
sequences that it did and to better show the evolution, I'll cite The Beatles clip first.
While purists can argue that one shouldn’t tamper with the greats and that Taymor
tainted the own little movies and images we have of the songs in our head, upon
further research and as noted throughout, The Beatles themselves were constantly
drawing inspiration from the world around them, whether it was with the war,
dabbling in spirituality, drugs or simply buying an old poster and listening to
Beethoven, etcetera. Plus, in offering a wholly original production, Taymor does
much more than fall into trappings of a parody movie and ultimately, with a work of
startlingly life-affirming passion, she honored the spirit of The Beatles and what
Tomorrow Never Knows author Nick Bromell originally said they were for
audiences. Namely, he wrote:
alone in the early ‘60s and wanted desperately ‘to make contact with
something more.’ The Beatles created a space into which their audience
projected as much meaning as they took away… a dynamic call-and-
response between themselves and their audience, a process whereby
‘meaning’ was created by an audience in collaboration with performers.”
Paul McCartney once said, “We write songs. We know what we mean by them. But in
a week someone else says something about it, says that it means that as well, and you
can’t deny it. Things take on millions of meanings,” (Bromell 32). And in offering up
one meaning out of millions, Taymor truly created a work that is one in a million.
Additionally, it will hopefully inspire another generation to seek new meanings for a
society that, unfortunately, with the advent of two wars and an overreliance of
headlines over the first half of the year regarding gender and racial prejudice in a
presidential race, is making us question even more so each day, the same thing it did
for Julie Taymor, namely-- how does that period of the 60’s speak to us now?
And I think it’s safe to say, it never hurts to look back to seek lessons, answers and
inspiration in the past. Besides, who better to use as guides than those who
composed what are arguably the definitive songs of the twentieth century? This is
especially true when considering that—no matter how much I read or how many
degrees I acquire—Taymor is right in arguing that one has to go through all the
darkness to be able to reach that all important conclusion. For as trite as it sounds--
now more than ever-- it seems ever so clear that in order to avoid war and respond to
events “across the universe,” in the words of The Beatles, “love is all you need.”
Bibliography & Further Links
“Across the Universe: Deluxe Edition Soundtrack.” Listen to Samples of Entire
Album at Amazon. (accessed 8/10/2008) http://www.amazon.
“Across the Universe.” Internet Movie Database (IMDb). (accessed 8/4/2008)
“Across the Universe.” Official Movie Site. (accessed 8/10/2008) http://www.
“Across the Universe.” Rotten Tomatoes: Photos. (accessed 8/10/2008) http://www.
“Across the Universe.” Official Soundtrack on Last.FM: only contains some tracks.
Across the Universe. “Two Disc Deluxe Edition.” Dir: Julie Taymor. Revolution
“The Beatles.” MySpace Page. (accessed 8/10/2008)
“The Beatles.” Official Site (accessed 8/10/2008)
“The Beatles.” Rolling Stone Photo Gallery. (accessed 8/10/2008)
“The Beatles.” Photos. Snap Galleries. (accessed 8/10/2008)
“The Beatles.” Official YouTube Channel. (accessed 8/10/2008)
Bromell, Nick. Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960’s.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Buskin, Richard. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Beatles. New York: Macmillan
Douglas, Edward. “Julie Taymor Soars Across the Universe.” ComingSoon.Net
(accessed 8/6/2008) http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=37341
Ebert, Roger. “Across the Universe.” The Chicago Sun-Times: Roger Ebert Online.
(accessed 8/4/2008) http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
Giuliano, Geoffrey and Brenda. The Lost Beatles Interviews: “The Beatles Changed
American Consciousness.” New York: Dutton Books, 1994.
Harry, Bill. The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia. New York: Hyperion, 1992.
Holden, Stephen. “Across the Universe: Lovers in the ‘60s Take a Magical Mystery
Tour.” The New York Times (accessed 8/10/2008)
Johans, Jen. “Across the Universe.” Film Intuition: Review Database. (accessed
“Julie Taymor.” Internet Movie Database (IMDb). (accessed 8/9/2008) http://www.
Waxman, Sharon. “Film Has Two Versions; Only One is Julie Taymor’s.” The New
York Times (accessed 8/10/2008)
(All from YouTube.Com)
“Across the Universe”:
“All You Need is Love”:
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”:
“Don't Let Me Down”:
“Happiness Is A Warm Gun”:
“Hold Me Tight:”
“I Am the Walrus”:
“I Want to Hold Your Hand”
“I Want You/She’s So Heavy”:
“It Won't Be Long”:
“I've Just Seen a Face”:
“Let It Be”:
“Strawberry Fields Forever”:
“With a Little Help From My Friends”:
The Beatles Clips
Beatles: “Don't Let Me Down”:
Beatles: “I Am The Walrus”:
Beatles: “Strawberry Fields Forever”:
Across the Universe Fan Galleries:
An American in Paris:
Jackson Pollack: "Blue Poles" Wikipedia
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test:
Janis Joplin at Rolling Stone:
Jimi Hendrix Photo Gallery at VH1:
Ken Kesey Statue in Eugene, Oregon:
Magical Mystery Tour:
|Text Only (c) Jen Johans. filmintuition.com
|Note: When originally posted in
2008, the embedded videos we
found online were all in working
order. However, due to Sony
Pictures copyright violation, a
majority of the clips have now
been removed from YouTube.
We've chosen to leave all of the
original videos throughout the
piece to give you a reference
point of where to follow along
when you watch the film on your
own to best appreciate the essay.