Sunday, May 27, 2018

10 Films in 10 Days: #4 - A Hard Day's Night

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) is the fourth film of my 10 films in 10 days and was pretty much a holy grail for me growing up. I was too young to see it in a theater but I was certainly aware of it, and as a Beatles fanatic from a very young age, any chance to see it (and Help!) was a rare treat. (I recall my brother and I once staying up until 1 a.m. to see Help! on local tv, back in the days before VHS, cable or streaming.) Shortly after we moved to Northern California from the east coast, however, we discovered that a local revival movie theater—the first we’d ever hard of—was playing A Hard Day’s Night on a double feature with Help! You better believe we saw it! (When they re-released a restored print theatrically of A Hard Day's Night in the 1980s when I was in college, I sat through two matinee showings of it in the middle of the day in a nearly empty theater.)

A Hard Day’s Night, of course, perfectly captured on film the energy and excitement of Beatlemania, capitalizing on (and, frankly, partly creating) the individual personas of each Beatle, using a frenzied, hand-held look on black-and-white film that used innovative film techniques (like lens flares during the concerts). Following a loose narrative, it follows the Fab Four over a single day as they arrive and prepare for a concert, while they also try to find moments of normalcy, peace and freedom away from the pressures of fans, the press, their managers, and even Paul’s (fictionalized) grandfather who all want a piece of them. Directed by American expat Richard Lester, who had worked in commercials and, impressively for the Beatles, the British comedy group the Goons, the movie also gives each Beatle their own scenes and a chance to shine. The film clearly shows why the Beatles had such an endearing impact—they’re all amazingly photogenic, charming, disarming, and natural performers and clowns. The film is both manic and artful.

Of course, the film also climaxes with a concert performance in front of a live audience, cleverly tying up the loose ends of the film in the final scenes. It’s generally considered the greatest rock’n roll film of all time, for good reason—up to then, most such films were intended to be disposable and forgettable. Though I’m sure the Beatles, Lester and the studio weren’t aiming for something that would stand the test of time, they certainly succeeded.


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