Mack Hall, HSG
She Loves You, Cough, Cough, Cough
A Hard Day’s Night was on Channel Siberia last week, and its charming innocence plays better now than it did in 1964. The plot, as in any musical, is but a weak thread for holding the songs together, and the Beatles could neither sing nor act, which, like an amateur musical in the parish hall, is part of the fun – all this was before they began taking themselves seriously.
The surprising strength of A Hard Day’s Night is its cinematography. The producers apparently could not afford color film, and so employed the then-unfashionable but excellent black-and-white stock which produced – and has maintained for over fifty years – crisp, clean, bright images which hit all the registers of light and dark. Except for the high-end technologies such as Technicolor, color film from the 1960s has since deteriorated, one might almost say soured, into fuzzy garish tones on the yellow end of the spectrum.
Many of the sequences are set outdoors, free of sets and CGI, and show post-war London, poor but tidy, with the ruins of bombed-out blocks still visible. The trains, busses, and taxis on screen were real, and are gone now, so the movie is a period piece about an era when people took the train to work and even the poorest man managed a much-cleaned and much-patched coat and tie for public wear instead of the current serf-livery of knee-pants and cartoon tees and plastic ball caps.
Most of the g-rated film is good-natured buffoonery, but the middle of the film changes mood for about fifteen quiet minutes of reflection as Ringo skips a rehearsal in order to take a solitary stroll along the streets and alongside a canal with his Pentax. He encounters all sort of people simply being themselves at work and play. There is little dialogue, and many of the images, as stills, would be works of art in themselves.
Because of the accidents of a low budget, monochrome, good humor, respect for the audience, a lack of artistic pretension, and an unselfconscious amateurishness in most of those in the picture, A Hard Day’s Night still has a youthful spring in its metaphorical step.
And let The People say “iconic.”
One of the recurring sub-themes in the film is the matter our lads fleeing hordes of screaming teenyboppers in beehive hairdos, reflecting the reality of the Beatles’ popularity in the 1960s. In contrast, there is a recent narrative of one of the surviving Beatles arriving at a post-awards show party for 2016’s cooler-than-cool, only to be turned away. Either no one knew who he was, or didn’t care.
1964’s A-list is still welcome at Luby’s Cafeteria.
And let The People sing “Yesterday.”