Dubbed as the greatest band of all time, The Beatles were a phenomenon that nobody predicted. Their success was like a lightning in a bottle, a boy band that flocked youths at their every turn, purchasing their music from the moment they were dropped on stores, feeling swooned by the love and angsty songs that they sing. However, it was through the evolution that they endure as artists that propel them from merely a hit of the day to a quartet of legends, shaping the music sphere with each album they dropped, slowly departing themselves from the serenades of the adolescent heart to the articulate compositions in the likes of Taxman, Penny Lane, Something, and Happiness is a Warm Gun.
It is easy to dismiss the works of their beginnings, pop tunes that repeatedly express the same content and manner that seem to target the younger audiences. But in doing so, would dampen the evolutionary impact of their musical progression, and there is something electric and inspiring in the live shows that they perform during their early years. Despite many facets of their image are manufactured, their personalities bleed beyond such artifice, we get a sense of who they are through their performance, whether it is caught through the sight of them performing on stage, the interviews that they attend, or the performance that they bring to the studio, there is something there that attracts us.
Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night is a perfect encapsulation of the four boys, amplifying their personalities to the point of absurdity, firing gags and lines at all cylinders ensuring that rarely for a moment one would not find something amusing happening on screen. This is a film that could have easily allowed George and Ringo to crumble beneath the more exuberant and witty auras of John and Paul, but Lester allowed even the driest and deadpan of humour to be slipped in between the cracks. It is through these little nuggets that we gain the feeling intimacy between ourselves and the boys, and such an approach is certainly a desirable approach for the band’s hardcore fans.
Innovation may not be the intention behind Lester’s direction, but through his desire to capture the essence of the band, he bridges the gap between fiction and documentary, blending the formal cinematography of a traditional fictional narrative and the techniques of documentarian filmmaking. It was through this effort that we gain a unique experience that certainly brings us closer to its subjects and compact a string of humorous gags to briskly pace the film along. Through retrospect, the film also manages to be a wonderful time capsule of the band at that given time, highlighting the rabid personalities of the band’s fans, whose mere presence would destroy their any sense of rationality and etiquette, and simultaneously gain a glimpse on the opinions and reactions of the band towards it.
The film doesn’t concern itself with the notion of a neat and foreseeable conclusion, it is a film very much of the present, focusing on the state of mind of England in 1964, thematic footprints are found here and there, but not necessarily in connection with one another. There is much to adore with this film, and one does not need to be a Beatles to see its appeal. It’s cinematic aspects are worthy of deconstruction and analysis, while the presence of it’s four subjects are enough to put a grin on one’s face and cause palpitations to their most susceptible followers. I am certain had A Hard Day’s Night not exist, then we wouldn’t have such inspired cinematic pieces like This is Spinal Tap; think about that.