Magazine article Artforum International

Backbeat

Magazine article Artforum International

Backbeat

Article excerpt

IAN SOFTLEY, DIRECTOR: Backbeat (Gramercy Films). As a movie about the Beatles in Hamburg in the very early '60s, this is perfectly adequate. As a movie about the love affair between then-Beatle bass player Stuart Sutcliffe and Hamburg photographer Astrid Kirchherr, which is what Backbeat wants to be, it's a blank Sheryl Lee is wasted as Kirchherr; like her soulmates in Heavens to Betsy she goes to extremes or she goes nowhere, and her underwritten part gives her nowhere to go and nothing to do, save to sit around looking knowing and occasionally pull off her sweater.

What's most intriguing in Backbeat is its presentation of Kirchherr's world, th world of the Hamburg Exis, or existentialists: a flamboyant, costumed, forbidding, sexually ambiguous haute bohemia. The question the film begs is where this supremely self-confident outsider milieu came from, given the suppression of bohemian cultures under the Nazis and the privations of the postwar period. Did Kirchherr and her friends hark back to the Weimar Dadaists, or did they come together in the same spirit as their peers in Paris, London, San Francisco, and New York? …

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