Film Discussion 22: A Hard Day's Night (1964)
This month's discsussion was on the classic 1964 Beatle's film, A Hard Day's Night. As Josh mentioned, this isn't a film on the same level as Lawrence of Arabia, but I think it's still an important film and one worth discussing.
Part of my goal in doing these discussions is that we learn to find meaning in any film, that we learn to think critically of what we watch and consume. And today's discussion was proof of that, as I think we all left the discussion with a greater appreciation of what the filmmakers were attempting to do in this film and what we can take away from it.
As always, below are some articles for further reading if you want more info on the film. I'm also including a very interesting interview with the director, Richard Lester, where he recounts his experience making the film. It's definitely worth a watch!
An Interview with Richard Lester
Lester utilized a multi-camera shooting technique for much of the film, using as many as six cameras for the musical performances. This in itself wasn’t necessarily new — multiple cameras had already been used on TV and occasionally in movies. But Lester gave a number of his cameramen free rein to just go out with zoom lenses and capture random angles during the performances. And so they got stolen moments — cut-aways of the crowd, close-ups of the musicians’ hands and feet, etc. As a result, the whole idea of a musical performance onscreen was opened up and made more cinematic.
In playing themselves as a quartet of smartasses who deride old people and take nothing seriously, John, Paul, George and Ringo delivered a primer on how to be famous in the era of commodity capitalism that endures to this day.
What Crowther and his fellow guardians of culture got so wrong was this: that far from being a spoof of Beatlemania, A Hard Day’s Night was Beatlemania. The targets of the film’s satire were the Bosley Crowthers of the world: those who regarded the group and its fans as something to be ignored or condescended to when they were acknowledged at all. These figures appear over and over again in A Hard Day’s Night: the teen-clothing marketing exec who can’t tell George Harrison from any other kid on the street and doesn’t believe it matters since something new will come along in a few weeks anyway; the TV director (the wonderful Victor Spinetti) who regards the band as nothing more than a nuisance to be controlled, filmed, and dismissed; the newspaper flacks cadging free drinks and food who don’t even notice when the Beatles ditch their own press conference.