Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Movies you should watch: A HARD DAY'S NIGHT

In "Private Lives," Noel Coward said that it was amazing how powerful cheap music can be. Sometimes it's just a chord. I remember late in an Elton John concert when the between-songs applause was shattered by the anthemic CLANG that started the Beatles' song "A Hard Day's Night."

An entire arena full of people gasped, first in recognition, then at the sheer audacity. Was that it? Is he going to do that song? The Beatles' classic version lets the chord reverberate and die before the song proper started, so we had a moment to contemplate before...

Yep. Pandemonium ensued as Elton and company served up three minutes of nostalgia as we all realized that not only this evening but the long slog since 1964 had been a hard day's night.

The movie was released in July of 1964, a quick six months after the Beatles had taken America by storm on the Ed Sullivan show in January. Shot quick and cheap with hand-held cameras in razor-sharp black and white, the film was intended to cash in on the Beatles' notoriety, quickly, before their popularity faded.

It was being directed by Richard Lester, an expatriate American who had gotten the attention of the Beatles with an 11-minute short called "The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film," featuring British funnymen Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. Lester throws in a series of visual and spoken gags, including the continued references to Paul McCartney's grandfather as "a clean old man" and bits-in-the-background that make every scene look like a panel from Mad magazine. His camera always finds the odd, interesting angle and frequently moves from one interesting shot to another with a zoom or camera move.

The Beatles are cute and charming and incredibly young, simultaneously living and watching their lives unfold as detached observers. The plot, such as it is, involves a trip to a TV studio for a performance. They take the train the night before, Paul's grandfather heads off to a private gambling club while the boys try to find him. The next morning they go to the studio, rehearse, and in the break between rehearsal and showtime grandfather goads Ringo into going AWOL ("You should be out there, paradin', instead of sitting here with your nose in a bloomin' book.") and they try to find him before the show starts without him.

The songs were the draw at the time, but the sheer exuberance of the four lads just having fun is what brings people back to this film some 50 years later. You will see gags now familiar from years of re-use and get a look at the cute one, the smartass, the set-upon one and the independent one who, dragged into an audition for  teen spokesmodel, looks at a picture of the big star and says "That posh bird who gets everything wrong? We turn down the sound when she's on and say rude things" as the oh-so-hip executives throw him out for his effrontery -- and then make a note not to renew her contract.

Timing in at a swift 90 minutes, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT never stops moving and never bores. And if you wondered why people of a certain age freaked out at the Beatles -- now you'll know.

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT -- a movie you should watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment