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Across The Universe

Shooting "Across The Universe"

This entry is coming almost three years too late, but then the movie “Across the Universe” was two years late, too, because its director Julie Taymor quarreled with the producers about the final cut. When it opened it had extremely mixed reviews, with The Times' Stephen Holden raving and Time Out New York's Melissa Anderson brutally dismissing it. But now it's building up a devout following, as the reviews in iTunes and IMDB show.

We like “Across the Universe”. It's a musical, a visualization of 25 or so Beatles songs, baked together in a story about love and war and music, set in '68. And it was filmed in our neighborhood, right next block.

Now, you see a movie shooting almost everyday in New York City, but usually all there is to watch are a bunch of gigantic trucks, tons of equipment, and young scruffy guys and girls with ear pieces running around. And a huge breakfast buffet, of course.

But in far rarer cases you can see a real movie set built right there in the streets. For “Across the Universe” they transformed Rivington Street between Suffolk and Clinton Streets into the East Village of the sixties. There was an amazing level of detail: not only every storefront was painted with psychedelic colors and patterns, but also advertising and the contents of the shop windows were replaced with sixties-compliant items. You could find posters for rooms to rent for a few dollars and movie ads for films long forgotten. The Stop 1 Deli, our main source for beer, was disguised as a movie theater (which didn't make it to the final cut). Two restaurants, the Cibao and Alias had their facade completely painted and decided to make it permanent.

Unfortunately we were on vacation in Texas during most of the shooting itself, but we witnessed the filming of that one scene where Prudence (T.V. Carpio) climbed up the fire escape stairs, complete with fake rain and thunder (in the movie you just see her from the inside jumping through the window, completely wet).

Watching the movie for two times (by now), it's interesting, how little of the set can be actually seen. There's a few scenes, where some of the characters walk through the streets, for example going into the Café Huh?, which actually doesn't exist in Rivington Street (maybe it's build after the Café Wha? in the Greenwich Village). And there's of course this one great shot where JoJo (Martin Luther) walks through the streets, accompanied by Joe Cocker singing "Come Together". Well, if that's not a nice anthem for the Lower East Side.

Anyway, I'm writing this to make some advertising for the movie - so if you like the Beatles and are open for a little psychedelic weirdness, then go rent it and give it a try. And if you like to see a little bit more of our neighborhood during the shooting, the please look here.

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