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A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Oh there's a twisted guitar. How... quaint
Oh there's a twisted guitar. How... quaint

Genre: Comedy Music (UK)

Starring: The Beatles - John, Paul, George and Ringo (Help!),  Wilfrid Brambell ("Steptoe and Son • The Three Lives of Thomasina)

Directed By: Richard Lester (Superman II  Superman III

Overview: The first film featuring the Beatles revolves around a couple of days in their lives as they get ready for a show. Paul's grandfather tags along, but he turns out to be a real mixer, making a Hard Day even harder.

Imagine yourself in the summer of 1964. You're a hysterical little girl. You're British. Hell, be American if you want. As long as you're white. Now think of the biggest things going on right now. In America, the Civil Right Act of 1964 was signed in July, but you don't care because you're white. The Pope just condemned your use of the pill, that's a downer, but these things really don't matter when compared to the film extravaganza of the universe. The Beatles are going to star in their very first movie.
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*Enter eardrum-bursting shriek here*
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After The Beatles played "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February '64 and single-handedly started the British Invasion, it was no surprise that their mega-fame would be holding fast by April, if I may quote Wikipedia, "The Beatles hold the top 5 positions in the Billboard Top 40 singles in America, an unprecedented achievement. The top songs in America as listed on April 4, in order, are: Can't Buy Me Love, Twist and Shout, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and Please Please Me."
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After all that, it would be stupid not to have a movie featuring The 'Biggest-Thing-On-Either-Side-Of-The-Atlantic' Beatles. Compare this to Elvis, who was in over 30 films, and everyone can agree that it just makes financial sense, regardless of the quality of those movies. Aye, but therein lies the rub. For as much as there may be an actual plot, that of a troublemaking old man getting into messes that The Beatles need to clean up, that sums up the long and short of it. The rest of A Hard Day's Night plays out like a home movie, and if you don't already know it, I'm sorry to break it to you, but your home movies are only entertaining to YOU. Combine this with high school film class where the cool kids made movies of themselves just standing around cause they were the shit. Multiply them by The Beatles and you'll find that between Ringo's awkward acting before he actually became 'an actor' to John playing with pop bottles up his nose and boats in a bath, you're quickly fed up. If I may highlight another red flag to deter you: "The Monkeys" television show was heavily influenced by this film. If I may translate: Lots of fast forwarded "Benny Hill"-style running around, chased by or chasing a) droves of screaming fans b) piles of cops c) each other while frolicking.
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Of course it's not all bad. The reason to watch is, of course, to see The Beatles performing their songs, but there too we find this film lacking. The visuals that accompanied those great songs were rote. Either we saw John, Paul, George and Ringo running around or playing to a house full of screaming girls - and today, we've seen that to death. Sadly after a hard day, I came home to a Hard Day's Night.
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Surly and busty. What else could a film need?
Surly and busty. What else could a film need?
 

Performance: 6 Cinematography: 7 Script: 6 Plot: 6 Mood: 7

Overall Rating: 64% (Hard On The Brain... Anytime)
Aftertaste:

When I say the best part was the end credits, I don't mean to be ... vituperative... because it's the truth. During those final credits we see black and white, close-up, low-key solo portraits of each of The Beatles. It was a pleasure to see, a nostalgic moment akin to finding glossy Time Magazine photos of Marilyn Monroe or Albert Einstein, it's neat. And for as much as Hard Day's Night isn't meant to be profound in any sense, I did feel moments of the sting of what would come, knowing that George died of lung cancer and the tragic way that John Lennon was killed. Watching A Hard Day's Night brings us back to The Beatles before that tragic day, before the turmoil, before Yoko!

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Wonderful writeup. But I feel you've been a bit too harsh on the movie. It wasn't just one of the earliest films to infuse MTV-style music video sensibilities into a movie, by choosing to be freewheeling, improvisation and even subversive (what with its self-deprecating humour), the movie even managed to be in the tradition of the Nouvelle Vague output, the then-craze among intellectuals and cinephiles alike. Everyone expected it to be nothing more than following the Fab Four with a pair of cameras. Instead, the director made the movie his own through all the farcical gags, wit, play, playfulness and even some surreality. A Hard Day's Night was brilliant and audacious film for me.


Shubhajit, you make a hell of a good point. Everything you said, I see exactly what you're talking about. Sadly had I seen this in the 60s, it would have been new and different, but I grew up with MuchMusic (Canada's version of MTV) and, well, I'm over it. As for nouvelle vague, you're right, it did have that feel, under it all.

Thanks Shubhajit!


"John playing with pop bottles up his nose..." I think you missed the point... "John is snorting Coke!" Its kinda how you missed the point of the whole movie. This movie is endless sight gags, witticisms, and just charming through and through. I can't watch this movie without a big grin on my face. 


great. If I was 16 I'd think it was hilarious.

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