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An intimate glimpse of Paul McCartney after 9/11

Paul McCartney in "The Love We Make." (Maysles

Paul McCartney in "The Love We Make." (Maysles Films, Inc.) Credit: Paul McCartney in "The Love We Make." (Maysles Films, Inc.)

If you've ever wondered what it's like to be Paul McCartney, the new documentary "The Love We Make," opening at Film Forum tomorrow, has your answer.

The latest from veteran filmmaker Albert Maysles (who co-directed with Bradley Kaplan), the film follows McCartney during a roughly week-long period in October 2001 as he plans the post-9/11 Concert for New York City, promotes it and rehearses for it.

Maysles ("Grey Gardens") is a renowned master of cinema vérité, the style of doc-making that favors unobtrusive naturalistic set-ups and an emphasis on fly-on-the-wall observation.

So we join McCartney as he walks through the city, unflinchingly greeting and bantering with an endless stream of admirers.

More than just an icon, McCartney is "also very much a person," Kaplan said. "He's very real and I think very tangible and ... relatable in the film. That's Paul."

The extraordinary access is best explained by the fact that the movie was McCartney's idea.

"He's the one that asked us to make the film," Maysles said. "It evolved from him calling me up, remembering, of course, that in 1964, my brother [David, who died in 1987] and I made the first film of The Beatles ['What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.'] when they came to America."

McCartney's New York

The movie is also a valentine to New York, the story of a man committed to giving back to the city that's meant so much to him and his career since it served as the Beatles' gateway to America.

"Paul mentioned a few times when we were making the film, this wonderful phrase we all know so well in America: 'Give [me] your huddled masses," Kaplan said. "This notion of bringing people together and community, which is why the title of the film became 'The Love We Make.'"

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Movie Review: "The Love We Make" -- 3.5 stars

If you made a movie about Paul McCartney eating a sandwich, it'd likely be a worthwhile experience. He's Paul McCartney, after all.

But capture the ex-Beatle in fraught post-9/11 NYC and follow his planning of the enormous benefit Concert for New York City, featuring everyone from the Who to Billy Joel, and you've got a hit.

Still, the patient, observational eye of co-filmmaker Albert Maysles brings a deeper level of meaning.

Maysles (and his co-director, Bradley Kaplan) keeps his camera turned on after a scene's main action has ended. He doesn't just film a McCartney show, but also its aftermath. This allows the movie to delve beneath the polished celebrity exterior and draw out the essence of the man.

"The Love We Make," then, is ultimately a portrait of an individual struggling with the complicated emotions so many felt after that terrible September day - the anger, the sadness, and the profound desire to make the tragic wrong right again in some way.  

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