It began in clubs, of course. The faces were closer to the stage back then, and during the breaks, there were the cigarettes and coffee, the warm beer and the instant feedback. It was the beginning of a long relationship between Paul McCartney and his audience, that group of fans who’ve followed him from the beginning, and found his music a powerful marker in their own lives. With “The Space Within US,” it becomes more obvious than ever. Paul McCartney has been feeling the same thing on his side of the relationship. “I relate to them,” he says in one of this film’s remarkably personal interviews, “It’s quite emotional for me … ”
If you know the film collaborations between McCartney and director Mark Haefeli, it’s no surprise. They’ve toured the world together, with cameras turning, and this is the third of their resulting films. (The first two, “Back In the US,” and “Paul McCartney In Red Square” are also filled with wonderfully rare behind-the-scenes moments) “The Space Within US,” though, dives even more deeply into matters of the heart as it follows McCartney’s “US tour,” as in you-and-me, across America. The cameras disappear. And the film’s wonderful conceit is simple. The fan is the focus. Even the celebrities, from an anonymous-looking Billy Joel to a charmingly disarmed Faith Hill, take a backseat to the families and faces along the way. I’ve never seen less self-conscious audience shots in a concert film. The songs and the memories splash across their faces, in real-time with the music. These unguarded moments, so original and personal, are their own mini-movies. Each person’s long-time journey with McCartney is on full display here, and it’s a riveting touch. “The Space Within US” is a soulful masterpiece about the friendship and the bond between McCartney and his fans.
And then there’s the music itself. Rusty, Abe, Brian, and the steadfast lava lamping wizard Wix, have all been part of McCartney’s touring team since 2000 (at least), and they’ve logged time at venues of all sizes, from private charity gigs to The Concert for New York and beyond. The songs rock harder, the band is fueled with their own history. As has been the case for each new touring phase, the setlist crackles with songs you never thought you’d hear live. “For No One,” “I’ll Get You,” “Too Many People,” and other surprises are all here, alongside the new gems, “English Tea,” “Follow Me,” and a gorgeous “Jenny Wren” from Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. And there’s a slew of priceless moments that Haefeli catches along the way…McCartney meeting an entire family of hardcore leave-home-and-follow-the-tour fans, a car window opening for a stolen portrait of McCartney joy, a birthday celebration for a longtime associate that tells so much about the history of McCartney and company’s behind the curtain dedication. That is what happens when a filmmaker dissolves into the woodwork and catches life as it happens.
The McCartney interview segments here are among his best ever. Sitting by his lviing room piano, or in front of an open door leading to a beach, he casually speaks of his faith in people, and in the songs. After many years of being interviewed or sometimes in the early days, interrogated by flustered reporters over the reason and purpose of the Beatles and more, here is a McCartney far from the white noise of celebrity. His take on the creative process is filled with clear-eyed commitment. That dedication to the written word, the right chord, or the right lyric still defines him. And this is where you can feel it hasn’t really been that long since the first song, the first show, and all those historic first firsts. This is pure McCartney. 2006-style.
By the way, there’s loads of laughs in this one too. (Did someone say “Tampa?”)McCartney’s history with cinema is a rich one, and it’s always been there, shoulder-to-shoulder with the music. But it’s the poetic last moment of this film you’ll take away and store along with the other memories contained within these songs. It’s that simplicity that makes THE SPACE WITHIN US so memorable. Like all the best music, the film feels like it was written just for you…because it was.
Courtesy of A & E