Published Jun 05, 2019
A Hard Day's Night captures the biggest band in the world at the height of Beatlemania. Directed by Richard Lester and released in 1964, the film follows the Beatles over a 36-hour period that sees them traveling by train, hiding out from fans in a hotel room, losing Paul McCartney's grandfather multiple times and, finally, arriving just in the nick of time for their TV performance.
It blends elements of documentary with concert film, in addition to plenty of just-for-fun scenes, like the band responding to fan mail, chasing down Paul's grandfather at a casino and goofing off during rehearsals for their TV concert.
The film manages to document the insane popularity of the Beatles, while showing off each member of the Fab Four's individual quirks, somehow bringing the biggest band in the universe down to Earth — and then into cinemas and fans' living rooms for generations to come. From John Lennon's quips to George Harrison's maybe-not-so-exaggerated-after-all quietness to McCartney's unabashed Liverpudlian-isms to Ringo Starr's unexpected and endearing turn as the star of the latter half of the film, the film both plays up and pokes fun at the Beatles' caricature-esque public personas.
The undeniable heart of A Hard Day's Night, though, is the music. Serving both as a soundtrack and a means of propelling the plot forward, almost all the hits from the titular album appear in the film. The title track plays as the band run from a horde of fans in the opening scene, while an impromptu performance of "I Should Have Known Better" provides a tender moment on the band's train ride.
Other songs play as party music ("I Wanna Be Your Man," "Don't Bother Me," "All My Loving"), rehearsal jams ("If I Fell," "I Love Her") and police chase soundtracks ("Can't Buy Me Love"), all the while complementing and adding significance to the onscreen action.
A Hard Day's Night celebrated its 50th anniversary back in 2014, and was toasted with its third release as part of the Criterion Collection. Now in its 65th year, the film continues to provide both an introduction to the Beatles for younger generations as well as a trip down memory lane for those who experienced Beatlemania firsthand.
Over time, the film has revealed itself to be rather like the enigmatic opening chord to "A Hard Day's Night" itself — it's tough to pin it down exactly, but the second you hear it, you're flooded with nostalgia, intrigue and pure joy.
You can experience it all over again on the big screen this summer. Exclaim! presents Screenjams, a celebration of music movies at Cineplex theatres.
Go see A Hard Day's Night at select theatres on July 19 — visit www.cineplex.com/Events for full details.