Beatles presentation comes to SIFF

It’s been a good couple of years for lovers of The Beatles. First, back at the end of 2015, Beatles discography found its way onto streaming. Then Ron Howard released a documentary chronicling the years the band spent touring the United States. In theaters, the documentary was paired with 30 minutes of restored footage from The Beatles legendary performance at Shea Stadium. 

If all that wasn’t enough, from Jan. 27-29, Scott Freiman (self-described “Beatleologist”) is bringing his multimedia presentation “Deconstructing The Beatles” to SIFF. 

What he means here is not strictly the Beatles as a band, but also “The Beatles,” perhaps better known as “The White Album.” As learned Beatles fans know, the 1968 album is viewed as kind of a game-changer. After more than a decade of hit album after hit album, The Beatles released it and it became the number one album of the entire decade. 

If “The Beatles: The Touring Years” was a fun jaunt down memory lane, then “Deconstructing The White Album” is auditing the class on memory lane. Freiman walks the audience through the production of “The White Album:” the years, players, and technology that fed into the famous 1968 album. He plays original demos, songs they drew from (or straight sampled), and breaks it all down so viewers can better appreciate how classics like “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” or “Revolution” (and its variants) came together over many, many takes. 

This is not a Beatles documentary for casuals. Although Freiman’s visual and aural presentations make for some interesting tidbits — flow charts demonstrating how The Beatles harnessed the four-track recorder to enhance their sound or sharing key moments captured on video — this is really a deep, meticulous dive into the making of The Beatles, with all the cinematic flair of “An Inconvenient Truth.” 

There’s fascinating insights, to be sure; Freiman’s passion shines through as he weaves a tale of the Apple Boutique, Brian Epstein’s shadow, and the band’s evolving politics (both internal and external). He starts the presentation with a pop quiz, of sorts, chronicling all the animal references, on “The White Album” — could you name them all? Though it’s become almost cliche to say that every album “The Beatles put out put them one step ahead” technique-wise, Freiman lays out just why and how the famous foursome used their studio as a playstudio to evolve their sound with each new composition. And credit where credit’s due, Freiman has some hosting chops that keep the material from 

But while Freiman’s hosting chops keep the material from feeling too dry, it’s still chronicling solely the production of a single Beatles album. If you’re not interested in The Beatles, their legacy, or the inner workings of their group, there may not be enough here to justify sitting through a lecture. If you’re interested in a survey of all the cogs and gizmos that make “The White Album” spin then “Deconstructing The Beatles” is the lecture for you. If not, I’m sure those people won’t mind letting you be.