Having screened 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' earlier this week, followed by the Blu-ray of 'The Love We Make,' this has been a super 9/11-heavy week for me. One being fictional and the other a documentary, but both taking place shortly after the terrorist attacks, it's caused me to reflect back on my own sentiments of the time and remember the unity that it not only created stateside, but in countries overseas as well. At the time of the attacks, I was living in central America and was shocked by the overwhelming, genuine concern from every stranger I ran into. Immediately after meeting someone, upon learning that I was American, each person would ask the same question: Is your family alright? Despite all the social and cultural differences, we were unified. 'The Love We Make' captures many small raw moments like that. As you watch the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments play out before your eyes, you'll go through those exact emotions again. While many may watch the film to see footage of their favorite Beatle, it will quickly cause their focus to shift back to the way we felt after what's arguably considered the darkest day in American history.
Just as the attacks on the World Trade Center were beginning, Paul McCartney was sitting in an airplane being taxied to the runway at JFK en route to London for his daughter's birthday. As air-traffic control told them to standby due to an accident in the city, the pilot told the passengers to look out one side of the aircraft because the World Trade Center was on fire. McCartney would never make it to the party.
McCartney was born at the end of World War II. His father was a volunteer firefighter who would tell him stories of how bad the bombing and fires were and how it could all be healed by a distraction of unifying music. When McCartney saw the aftermath of the Twin Towers collapsing, the many policemen/women and firefighters who selflessly gave their lives rescuing people, it occurred to him that one way in which he could help was the same way in which his father helped the grieving people during World War II – give them music.
As he began planning a benefit concert for the police and firefighters and their families, having heard that McCartney was setting a show up, film producer and former concert promoter Harvey Weinstein approached him with the proposition that they work together and organize a mega-concert at Madison Square Garden that could air on television. Once McCartney returned to New York City for the concert, he brought with him old friend Albert Maysles, the documentary filmmaker who joined the Beatles in the mid-'60s and put out the films 'What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA' and 'The Beatles: The First US Visit.' It only seemed fitting that Maysles join McCartney on this emotional ride to show how nearly 40 years later, one Beatle is still having a major impact on America.
The first half of 94-minute 'The Love We Make' moves somewhat slowly as it follows McCartney around NYC as he preps for the big show - meeting with the stars and musicians who will be participating, rehearsing with his band and giving interviews with the press to publicize the charity event – and the second half features a hybrid mix of the VH1 broadcast and backstage footage. You'll see Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, James Taylor, Harrison Ford, former president Bill Clinton, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sheryl Crow, Barbara Walters, Ozzy Osborne, Howard Stern, Billy Joel, Steve Buscemi, John Cusack, Elton John and, of course, Harvey Weinstein. During the concert footage, you'll see segments of performances by Billy Joel and Elton John together, The Who, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Jay Z, David Bowie, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy together and the headlining performer, Paul McCartney.
You may start off watching 'The Love We Make' because it's a "Paul McCartney documentary," but before long you'll realize that it is so much more than that. It documents that broken-but-healing spirit of post-9/11 America while it just-so-happens that it stars Paul McCartney. Like the other musical telethon that George Clooney put together just over one week after 9/11, 'A Tribute to the Heroes,' 'The Love Me Wake' is a piece of American history that's worthy of owning. While you personally may not want to re-live and remember those events, this is the footage that your children and your children's child need to see.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Eagle Rock Entertainment has placed 'The Love We Make' on a BD-25 in a hybrid cardboard/platic eco-friendly case. Upon inserting the disc, you're forced to watch a copyright warning, the Eagle Rock vanity reel and disclaimer about the low quality of the footage used in the film before being taken to the main menu.
One decade later, 'The Love We Make' hits Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. Yes, vertical black bars appear throughout the entire picture.
Since the disc opens with a forced disclaimer warning about the poor condition of the film used to make this Blu-ray transfer, you would expect it to be terribly distracting, but the flaws from the original footage aren't as bad they make it seem.
Other than the footage shown from VH1's concert broadcast and a few other television interviews, 'The Love We Make' was shot on black & white film stock. Just like the footage from Maysles' old Beatles films, this is grainy, noisy footage that carries an "aged" appearance. Most of the time, the picture reveals no detail nor texture to the images shown. At first, I believed this lack of detail was a result of bad transfer, but on a few rare occasion where the camera zooms into extreme close-ups, it's then that you can see just how great the transfer really is. Detail like facial pores and hair strands can be seen, but only when the camera zooms in close enough to see it.
Being shot in black & white, the high amount of grain and digital noise hide the occasional small amounts of grime and dirt found on the print. It's visible from time to time, but is generally clean and hidden when not. It's obvious that the original film stock was not altered in the transfer process – there are zero traces of DNR, edge enhancement, artifacts, banding or aliasing. It's simply an old-looking film that shows off a fantastically contrasted use of black & white.
While the video couldn't be altered due to its original condition, there isn't an excuse for the sub par audio. Three options are presented – DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 – but none of them ever reach superb quality.
The majority of the footage used prior to the concert event is music-less. Aside from a few scenes that use the surround and rear channels for ambiance – screeching taxi brakes and hydraulic hissing from public transportation buses – all of the audio comes from front and center. Until we get to the VH1 broadcast footage, it might at well be a 2-channel stereo track.
Even when we get into the concert footage and the surround speakers kick in, the rear channels still remain fairly quiet, giving the concert a wide feel instead of an all-encompassing one. It's during this footage that we finally get rich bass and have the sub-woofer kick in and become an active part of the audio. Had the entire film carried the sound quality of the concert, it would be just above par – but as is, it's below it.
There are no special features.
One need not be a Paul McCartney fan in order to enjoy 'The Love We Make.' The fact that McCartney is the subject followed around NYC while promoting the concert is just a bonus for the Beatles fans out there. Don't be fooled (like I was) into thinking this is merely a Paul McCartney concert transferred to Blu-ray – it is so much more than that. It captures the spirit of the nation (and parts of the world) following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Sure, this isn't the most uplifting content, but it is part of America's history and heritage. What happened that day affected many parts of the world and it deserves to preserved and seen by those who weren't around to witness it firsthand. While the lackluster audio quality of the Blu-ray about have been better, the poor condition of the original black & white footage could not. It's not terribly flawed, but it sure isn't great either. What places 'The Love We Make' into the "recommended" category isn't the audio and video qualities, but power of the film itself.