Backbeat [1994]

Ian Hart's second performance as John Lennon (the first was the little-seen The Hours and Times) commands attention in this marvelous musical bio of the Beatles in Hamburg directly before their stardom. The focus is on the "5th Beatle," Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), a bluesy bass guitar player who finds Germany has more interesting things (art and a woman) than music. The woman, Astrid (Sheryl Lee), chronicles the early years of the Beatles, and she falls in love with Stuart, a move that would influence many aspects of the Fab Four. Nearly overpowering the film is Hart in a great, energized performance of an artist on fire. The music was adapted for the movie, rediscovering the raw sound and ballistic energy in the back street clubs. These scenes of rock and genius intermixed with a nervy lead singer evoke similarities to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Directed by Iain Softley. --Doug Thomas

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