Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester)

The Fab Four.

"A Hard Day's Night" opened with the fab four being chased by their crazed fans. They stumble, they impersonate, they hide. But contrasting their attitude towards the mob to, say, Buster Keaton's in "Seven Chances", which he is helplessly chased by a hysterical crowd of unmarried women, is quite fitting. Unlike Keaton who ran for his life through bulging boulders and all, John, Paul George and Ringo ran for their lives just for the hell of it. They just wanted to be chased, make fun of the idea of it, and have a good time.

From those starts this energetic film that is part documentary, part quirky comedy film that cemented the, at the time, emergent phenomenon that is "The Beatles". As what the summary states, "A Hard Day's Night" puts into perspective a day in their exhausting, almost cyclic lives as music heartthrobs and recording artists. But just about when we are going to think that 'fame' is a thing pleasurable only in the start, the bumbling "Beatles" added their own peculiar twist into it, creating a refreshing milieu of the concept of 'celebrity' where constant tumbles, pressures and shows are nothing but snippets of fun and every troubles found along the way absorbed with carefree enthusiasm.

Before the band's journey into a more experimental style of music later in their careers with non-matching outfits and a more indifferent John Lennon, they have been an icon for their 'cool' fun and humorous, Liverpudlian antics, which "A Hard Day's Night", directed by Richard Lester (who also directed "Superman II & III") has captured with crisp black and white photography (by Gilbert Taylor) and a seemingly endless source of energy. The film was, as expected, virtually plotless, with countless vignettes and small adventures commonly caused by a person in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong age: Paul Mccartney's 'other' grandfather, played irritatingly (I do not know if that is a complement) by Wilfrid Brambell.

Yes, the four are having a great time, playing pranks, drinking booze and having clean flirts with various girls, but it was further enhanced, with potentially consequential outcomes, by this old man with an insidious intent to steal scenes and demand attention. He is by no means the weak part of the film, as the entirety of it was written splendidly by Alun Owen with an unrelentingly contagious wit and fast pace (though with some ad-libs here and there). But the scenes specifically intended to be dominated by John, Paul, George and Ringo's showcase of their ensemble, spontaneous comedy were at times overshadowed by this pesky old-timer's countless attempt to act without accord.

Of course, "A Hard Day's Night" is a comically trivial deconstruction of "The Beatles'" larger-than-life fame, but the old man's numerous acts of idiocies should have been, at least for me, a separate film on its own. In all fairness, if ever the character was envisioned as very exasperating as what was materialized on screen, I think Wilfrid Brambell performed well and did it justice, but the character really just bothered me, just like what he did to John and company.

"A Hard Day's Night" is the testament of the band's career's highest peak, and after many years, although some may find the jokes a bit dated, it is still a potent time capsule of a film that brings us into an era where mindless fan adoration is purely and outwardly reciprocated with substantial artistry. Nowadays, the first will always be somewhere out there waiting to be unleashed on the sight of a new celebrity phenomenon, but the latter may just really be nearing the gutters.



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