Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Hard Day’s Night

(UK, 1964)

Watching this for the first time in many years, I was surprised to find that it’s not nearly as wonderful as I remember it. In fact, in many ways, it’s not even very good at all.

The best things first. Best of all is Richard Lester’s direction, particularly in the musical numbers. Each one is handled differently, and they blew our collective minds in 1964. Lester is credited, rightly, as being the father of the music video. (When told that, he is said to have demanded a paternity test.) He honed his skills directing commercials, which have to be snappy and quick. There are several things here that would soon become Lester trademarks, and widely imitated. He is one of my top five directors of all time.

The second good thing, of course, is the music. But even here I was struck by a stray thought. What was it in the alignment of the stars that made thirteen-year-old girls single out these boys to cream their knickers over? There were a hundred groups with members as pretty as John, Paul, George, and Ringo. There were a hundred groups in London, New York, Los Angeles, and probably Nashville writing and playing music just as rocking. I mean, there really isn’t anything super special about those early albums. It can’t have been the music that put them over to these girls. No, but I think I can say that we owe Sgt. Pepper to those millions of screaming, crying, fainting teenyboppers we see in the audience here, where there is literally not a dry crotch in the house. No one knew these four would go on to become the most creative band of them all.

But now we come to the story. Remember that? I hadn’t, frankly. I can make a good case that the story of A Hard Day’s Night is that of an irascible old man who comes to London to make some money, but is constantly being thwarted by these four assholes who want to put on a damn show! No kidding. Remember Wilfred Brambell as “Paul’s grandfather,” the “clean old man” who was always around to irritate me? I had almost forgotten about him. He manages to fuck up great big parts of the movie. He is totally not needed. Alun Owen was nominated for a screenplay Oscar here, and I’m so glad he didn’t win.