#77 A Hard Day’s Night
(1964, Richard Lester)
“And I’ve been working like a dog”
Quite possibly the most successful band of all time, and often considered the greatest band ever, I’ve Got A Feeling that The Beatles were rather popular. So it seems pretty appropriate that I’d end up reviewing one of their movies for the purposes of this blog. However, their movies were made entirely from contractual obligation rather than any real desire for the band to make the move into film. So is A Hard Day’s Night, their feature film debut, any good?
A compilation of music videos masquerading as a plot, A Hard Day’s Night is a mockumentary detailing A Day In The Life of the band. Accompanying them is Paul’s fictional grandfather John (Wilfrid Brambell), who’s a very “clean old man” (a running gag referencing Brambell’s role as “dirty old man” Albert Steptoe in Steptoe & Son) and a bit of a “mixer”. Basically the movie sees them going Here, There And Everywhere for an appearance on a London TV show.
Now, A Hard Day’s Night is a bit of a strange movie to review, on the basis that as a film in its own right, it’s not all that great. The sudden jumps into Beatles songs (soundtrack album available on Apple Records WINK WINK) make about as much sense as Paul being The Walrus, and The Beatles themselves weren’t brilliant actors. Even though this movie essentially means they should Act Naturally, they always seem like they’re playing up to the camera and not actually being themselves. And on a technical level, the movie is hardly a Revolution. The plot jumps around all over the place, and since I’ve already reviewed a colour movie from 1964, I get the distinct impression that the producers weren’t exactly forking out the latest in movie technology to put this thing together.
However, it’s clear that the point of the movie is to promote the Beatles and capture the spirit of Beatlemania. It’s a cultural relic rather than a film, designed to evoke a time that Your Mother Should Know. And for that it succeeds. While The Beatles are obviously playing up for the camera, their personalities are very apparent, especially in the music sequences. It’s also clear that everyone involved in this film had a great time making it.
And yet, at times it struggles to stick to its aim at promoting the band, with all the scenes focusing on Paul’s grandfather. It’s not even clear why he’s there beyond someone wanting to make the “clean old man” joke for fans of Steptoe & Son since there doesn’t seem to be Any Time At All for his scenes to be necessary. If the aim was to make a mockumentary, then he doesn’t need to be there.
I Want To Tell You that this film is worth watching, but it’s not easy. Quite simply, if you like The Beatles, you’ll find a silly film with a cheeky sense of humour with some good music popping up in between the cheesy one liners. If you can’t stand The Beatles, it’s a meandering poorly-plotted mess that keeps playing those godawful pop songs for no reason. I’m a fan, so I like the movie for its ability to capture the band’s personality, but I also recognise it’s not that good as a stand-alone film.
Plus personally I preferred The Beatles after they started speaking to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, if you get what I mean.
Starring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr& Wilfrid Brambell
Written by Alun Owen
Produced by Walter Shenson
Songs written by Lennon/McCartney and produced by George Martin
Cinematography by Gilbert Taylor
Edited by John Jympson
Favourite Scene: The Beatles speak to reporters, giving sarcastic responses and generally screwing around.
Scene That Bugged Me: Basically any period of time devoted exclusively to Paul’s grandfather. Kind of raises questions about the point of the movie whenever that happens.
Watch it if: The Beatles are your favourite band
Avoid it if: You’d rather watch Yellow Submarine
Originally posted on Blogspot Friday 6 April 2012