I started watching Alien on Monday to follow through with my alphabetical watching, but I have been delayed in completing it. Instead I have a review of the Beatles first film A Hard Day's Night.
Critiquing this film as a piece of cinema, and not as a collection of Beatles tunes is a difficult task. Richard Lester creates some truly beautiful black and white images. Though sometimes the camera can't seem to find its focus. And the images obviously taken on a helicopter as they boys play in the grass outside the television studio shake wildly and distract from the fun being had. The boys, though essentially playing themselves still play it a little stiff as if they are not sure how, exactly, to be themselves. The jokes, for the most part, are still funny, and what little plot there is, still works to give a glimpse into what it was like to be a band on the verge of universal stardom.
To take the movie without the songs is well beyond the point, though. The movie is essentially a market ploy to get the songs heard via a different media. One might not be so forgiving if the songs were not any good, but the music shines throughout. The title song that starts the movie off starts with a struuuum that is instantly recognizable and jumps out and smack you in the face. That is followed by what is arguably the Beatles best tunes. When you add in such songs as: I Should Have Known Better, Tell Me Why, I'm Happy Just to Dance with You, the simple, sweet "If I Fell" and the sing along favorite "Can't Buy Me Love" to the soundtrack then you have a musical that is just shy of remarkable.
The movie was released just before the Beatles came to America and appeared on Ed Sullivan which brought on the madness known as Beatlemania. By this time they were extremely popular as can be seen in the crowds reaction while the boys sings on the television show. It is still shocking to see images of teenage girls screaming, crying and shaking in a manner previously only known to the Pentecostal religion. The soundtrack periodically allow the girls screaming to take over the music allowing us to glimpse what it must have been like to be there. No wonder the boys gave up playing live shortly thereafter.
A Hard Days Night is an excellent glimpse of the Beatles on the cusp of World Stardom. This was before the summer of love, drugs, and the sitar where the Beatles were just trying to be the best band in the world and writing songs that made them so. It is a joy to see them cutting up and being their goofy, hilarious selves. I dare you not to sing and dance along as you watch it.