Out of circulation for many years for contractual reasons, Richard Lester’s classic Beatles film is re-released in a restored new print. This humorous celebration of the Fab Four was shot quickly and cheaply in order to capitalise on the group’s early success. Lester seems to have been chosen as director partly because of his Goon-like surrealistic humour as evidenced in his classic short, The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film, which happened to be one of the Beatles’ favourite films.
The Beatles are cast as zany, anarchic characters who attempt to escape the pressures of fame. Alun Owen’s script attempts to crystallise each individual personality in the public consciousness, with Lennon’s acid tongue, Harrison’s dry wit, and Ringo’s lovable clown making the strongest impact. What Lester does is to get behind the façade of the Beatles, not so much in terms of their characters but in terms of their situation. What he discovers is power without freedom: four people with an astounding effect on audiences and yet whose lives are confined within cars and rooms.
As a comedy, A Hard Day’s Night combines Buster Keaton-style slapstick with subversive verbal humour and jokes about movie conventions. ‘Let’s have the show right here!’ shouts John Lennon mockingly, spontaneously sending up the artificiality of the traditional movie musical. The film could also be seen as a reaction against all those downbeat realist dramas about the plight of the British working class in the fifties and sixties. In contrast to this tradition, A Hard Day’s Night is positive, upbeat and shows four working class lads making good. And making good music, of course, since the soundtrack features such classics as ‘And I Love Her’, ‘She Loves You’ and ‘If I Fell’.
U.K., 1964.Black and white.Dolby digital stereo.87 mins.