A Hard Day’s Night
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A Hard Day's Night

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In the paradigm currently embraced by the entertainment industry, is not uncommon for popular music stars to want to make the transition into film. During the 50s the arguably most popular singer in the world, Elvis Presley, appeared in a series of reasonably good movies. Of course a significant portion of the film was there to justify the numerous musical numbers peppered throughout the story. Presley had the charisma and fundamental talent to become reasonably successful as an accident. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was lamentable flick, ‘Crossroads’, a vehicle whose sole purpose was to cash in on the success of the reigning pop princess, Britney Spears, and served as a vanity project for her. While not the earliest movie to feature of popular music group, the 1964 film’ A Hard Day’s Night’ it was one of the most pivotal movies of the type and set the stage for the use of performers who dominate the pop music charts films that are fundamentally tied to a current album release. This is a reversal of the usual way an album film release all connected. Once a musical film becomes popular, it was not uncommon to release its soundtrack as an album. In the case of this film theatrical release was a mere four days before that the album. This was a carefully calculated marketing ploy for the movie and album to mutually promote each other and ride the tsunami that was the sensation of the Beatles. In the 1960s most well-known people in the world without a doubt, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, collectively known as the Beatles, causing havoc in the evening hundreds of teenage girls in a state of uncontrolled frenzy and screaming, tears rolling down their faces at the very glimpse of one of their pop idols. The executive holding the contracts of this group had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that both the movie and the album would be a raging financial success. What they could not have suspected. At that point is that both of these offerings would be pivotal in forever altering their respective art forms.

One of the most unique aspects of the film is that it was made in a faux cinéma vérité style. While the proverbial for all cinema was with the most part kept intact the movie did intentionally blur the fictional story with the lives of the real Beatles. As the story opens the mop headed quartet are frantically trying to escape from a wild or of adoring teenage girls. Not long before this film was released the entire world got to see the effect the Beatles had on this demographic. At the Ed Sullivan show the cavalry pan to the audience, giving the viewers at home an opportunity to witness girls on the verge of passing out from screaming, tears pouring down their eyes as they jump up and down, holding signs expressing their undying love for the favorite member of the group, not uncommonly Paul. I’m quite certain that scenes like this would directly Incorporated into the screenplay by its author Alun Owen, who infuse the number of scenes with a tongue in cheek humor lampooning the boys wild rise to success. The Beatles crossing the Atlantic Ocean to broaden their popularity of the United States was the ‘The Second British Invasion’, and rightfully so. The director, Richard Lester, obviously had a lot of fun working with the Beatles on this film. Right from the start, he must’ve realized there was no way to contain their enthusiasm, nor would he want to it was integral to who they were and their popularity. His task was not to bring them in to guide them in the right direction to create a film with a modicum of coherency. At the boys escape the screaming mob of girls get onto a train an attempt as best they can to relax. Considering there were a number of female passengers on board that was not about to happen as they had hoped. As a result of the disruption Paul’s (fictional) grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell), was relocated to what was called the goods van, the car at the very rear of the train that we here in the States was referred to as the caboose. The boys retreat there to keep the elderly man company as they as far away as possible from potential trouble.

They arrived in London taking a hotel room to rest before a concert in your home, then you of Liverpool. Rebelling against the confinement the Fab four decide to go on a night on the town bringing their grandfather, along. In the course of the evening grandfather creates a disruption at a casino. It is quite easy to see where Paul inherited is well known exuberance from. The next day the group is taken to the theater for preparation, the concert is to be committed to film, which makes the procedure longer and more tedious than usual. The method that Ringo decides to use the combat tedium is retreat outside the venue and read. Grandfather goes over to talk to the drama, advising him to go out and live life, enjoy new experiences, rather than being content in reading about them. Ringo accept the advice and acts upon it. Why Ringo takes a leisurely day having a quiet drink in the local pub walking along the canal, blissful in the moment, John, Paul and George are frantically searching for him at the time to stop the concert rapidly draws closer.

That’s about it. As far as the plot line goes, the story is little more than connective tissue to hold the film together as a scaffold for presenting the performances. Little mini music videos comprise most of the scenes of the movie. It was a frantic energy that the only Beatles had that was quite appealing to the fans back then, and holds up today in ways significantly beyond me and the nostalgia. Many of the techniques employed here, such as the static movement achieved by the leading certain frames. While the hyperkinetic shots of the Beatles wildly running around in search of them missing, drummer and friend. Younger viewers may think that many of the techniques employed in this film are overuse and unimaginable. Considering most of your parents were still in school listening to Beatles songs on their 45 record players you are really not properly equipped to properly assess the impact this film had on both music and cinema.

Back in 1964, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was considered revolutionary. Prior to this music as used in most films, either as incidental songs sung by one of the leads are necessary because the film was a migration of a musical from the Broadway stage. In either case was music introduced by the lead cast and quite this fashion. It wasn’t so much the Beatles were singing the songs within the context of the story, the songs on the album with truly used as the film’s soundtrack replacing the need for contrived setting of the principles to sing and play instruments with the freedom to have the Beatles engage in completely zany behavior and then new songs play in the background. This movie is a companion piece for Richard Lester’s ‘Help!’ The other mid-60s Beatles film. This filmmaker would go on to create one of the funniest films made from abroad Ray musical comedy, ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum’, as well as the first two of the 1980’s incarnation of the ‘Superman’ franchise. Significant part of what made this movie so special was added afforded the audience an intimate point of view from the perspective of people who are exceptionally famous. Everyone was clamoring any tidbit about these four young men from Liverpool. Not only did they dominate teen magazines like ‘Tiger Beat’, but they were subjects of front-page coverage for Life magazine in most of the respected news journals. This was legitimate coverage that pales in respectability any of the tabloid darlings the paparazzi swarm on a daily basis. The music of the Beatles became the soundtrack for generation and often the musical scene inspiring most of the music that would follow them. Synergistically this film was groundbreaking for the office cinema complementing this still ongoing influence on music.

The Criterion Collection has long been considered a catalog of the best and most influential films ever. They offer the best possible transfers of the audio and video remaining as true as possible to the original vision of the filmmaker. There releases of a film represent the best possible way to watch a particular film. You may have another copy of this in your collection already, but unless you have a Criterion Collection edition, you really don’t have the means to experience the film in the rate was intended. Typical of their other offerings this box set contains both Blu-ray and DVD discs, as well as a wealth of additional information and extras. For those of us can remember Beatlemania firsthand this film represents an important part of our personal history. Those will come after us. It is a record of a point in time, but for young men with long hair cuts, altered not only music in film, but our society and pop culture as a whole.

Audio commentary featuring cast and crew
In Their Own Voices, a new piece combining 1964 interviews with the Beatles with behind-the-scenes footage and photos
"You Can't Do That": The Making of "A Hard Day's Night", a 1994 documentary by producer Walter Shenson including an outtake performance by the Beatles
Trailers
PLUS: An essay by critic Howard Hampton

Posted 06/25/2014

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