Saturday, November 10, 2012

#817. A Hard Day's Night (1964) - Spotlight on England

Directed By: Richard Lester

Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

Tag line: "Soaring in their first, full-length, hilarious, action-packed film!"

Trivia:  The Beatles record producer George Martin got an Academy Award nomination for his music score in the movie, but The Beatles themselves weren't nominated for their music

Richard Lester directs the Beatles in their first motion picture, a groundbreaking Rock and Roll film that’s both funny and a whole lot of fun.

The story - flimsy though it may be - focuses on a day in the life of the rock and roll band The Beatles (or, more specifically, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr). 

As A Hard Day's Night opens, the Fab Four, on their way to appear in a live TV show, are dodging a throng of adoring fans, who have flooded into a train station to see them off. Once the quartet is safely on board the train, Paul introduces his bandmates to his grandfather (Wilfred Brambill), who has decided to tag along with them. 

The boys spend most of this trip getting into trouble, much to the chagrin of their manager Norm (Norman Rossington), Norm's assistant, Shake (John Junkin), and a television director (Victor Spinetti) who is trying, in vain, to put his live show together.

But as problematic as The Beatles are to the powers-that-be, that’s how annoying Paul’s grandfather is to them: pitting the bandmates against each other; stealing Ringo’s invitation to a posh casino; and selling counterfeit autographed pictures of the boys to their more gullible fans. Grandfather even convinces Ringo to go for a long walk... 45 minutes before their live TV show is scheduled to air!

The story is decent enough, but, as expected, it's the music that gives A Hard Day's Night it's energy and makes it such an entertaining watch. Many of the Beatles’ early hits are here, including the title number as well as "All My Loving", and "I Want to Hold Your Hand". An obvious influence on the music video craze that reached its zenith in the 1980s, A Hard Day’s Night builds to a frantic pace whenever a song pops up, showing its four stars running down the street to escape overzealous fans or, in one of my favorite scenes, just plain acting crazy in the middle of a park as "Can’t Buy Me Love" fills the soundtrack.

Jammed with plenty of cinematic gags (portions of the above-mentioned "Can’t Buy Me Love" number play out at double-speed), A Hard Day’s Night was made when the Fab Four were at the height of their popularity, and on the cusp of becoming rock icons. Clearly, the lads had a great time making this film, and their unbridled optimism spills right off the screen in every sequence.

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