Classic Flix Review: A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
by guest blogger Vince Caro a.k.a rockerdad

In the spirit of rtm’s trip to London this week, and guest blogger Samantha’s fine piece on Mark Strong, I thought I’d mix things up a bit with an unlikely classic review: The Beatles’ first movie – A Hard Day’s Night from 1964.

Of course, everyone has heard of this movie, of the song “A Hard Day’s Night”, and especially of the band. Admittedly, I’ve been a diehard fan since age 6, with my fanaticism peaking during my 20s but has moderately waned over the past few years. But as I sat and watched this (for the umpteenth time) I couldn’t help but fall a little bit into the nostalgia of a moment when you are first discovering something new. Don’t get me wrong – The Beatles had been broken up for decades, John Lennon had passed on, and the hysterical screams of Beatlemania a footnote in pop culture history long before I saw a single frame of this movie. However, in my eyes A Hard Day’s Night, still sport a uniqueness and an innocence even by today’s film standards.

The Film:
The film chronicles a day in the life of the fab four as they scurry in and out of hotels, taxicabs and concert venues while being constantly hounded by screaming fans and paparazzi. Shot in black in white, American born director Richard Lester applied the multiple camera technique – most of it handheld and by amateurs – giving it a lo-fi, avant-garde touch. Lester was well known as the director of the popular British absurdist show The Goons (Peter Sellers was a member) and apparently The Beatles were big fans. The film is filled with light surreal touches as well as calculated jump cuts with audio and scenes overlapping – quite unheard of in contemporary films at the time (unless of course you are of the French New Wave school). And as is well known, many considered A Hard Day’s Night THE catalyst for music videos 2 decades later.

The Music:
Well, if you like early Beatles, you’ll love this film. If not, well that’s your loss…

The Boys:
Alun Owen wrote the script (and nominated for an Oscar) by watching the Beatles during backstage moments and in their hotel rooms. There’s lots of seemingly ad-libbing improvisations but in actuality are straight out of Owen’s clever script. The bottom line is that these guys looked like they were having so much fun. And I guess, it’s fun to see that natural humor on the screen. A great supporting cast includes Wilfrid Brambell as Paul’s (very clean) grandfather and Kenneth Haigh as a ruthless trend manipulator. With that said, it’s no wonder the film is as infectious as ever.

The Quote:
Reporter to Ringo: Are you mod or a rocker?
Ringo: I’m a mocker.

Still rising stars at the time of its release, the film documents the Beatles as they seem to really be, good natured and funny talent, but human nonetheless. Though calculated and well thought out by the businessmen, at least they let the creatives do what they do. In this case, Lester, Owen, and the Beatles all did what came natural to them: their thing.

rtm’s note: Guess what, isn’t it timely that Ivan & I are probably going to be on Abbey Road around the time this post is published!

Fab review as always, thanks for your contribution, rockerdad!