Note: Everything having anything to do with The Beatles has been and will continue to be combed through hair-by-hair and painstakingly studied under a microscope, so it’s fair to say that in some ways this post is more about me than it is about the film. I don’t claim to be an expert.
Last night, we all went to the seven o’clock showing of the recently restored A Hard Day’s Night at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. I’d seen it a few times before–once in probably 7th grade, when along with my friend Nora I was a latter-day Beatlemaniac, and then a few more times over the years–always on video. Never having seen the film in the theater before, I was just happy to finally see it on the big screen–restoration or no.
This viewing reaffirmed some of my longstanding opinions.
#1: My regard for Ringo. Nora’s favorite was George. That was a solid choice. John (whose talents and intellect I probably respect the most) and Paul (who is really nothing special at all on film) were too obvious. But I was honestly drawn to Ringo. Particularly in those early days, he was sort of cute and funny and unintimidating. A Hard Day’s Night shows him as the life of the party (love that scene–anyone who dances like that automatically gets my respect), and also as a sensitive, simple sort of person–a bit goofy, not at all infallible, able to comfortably connect with a wandering youth (whose wild freedom he no doubt envies). From an outsider’s viewpoint, the fame seems to have affected him–who he was as a person–the least of the four. He really was Richard Lester’s pick as the most story-worthy and perhaps even the best actor of the bunch (see Help!, in which Ringo is also at the center of things). His natural charm and humor translate well on screen.
#2: My love for the song “If I Fell.” Of all the remastered music in the film, this is the song that stands out for me–again. This sort of links up with my respect for George Martin (who, bless him, is still alive, in case anyone was wondering). It’s a lovely song, and his production work really makes it more than the sum of its parts.
Not sure that clip even quite does it justice. Last night in the theater, for the duration of that song, I was transported. </gush>
But beyond all that I sort of knew before, there was more. I always knew what the film was–what it was about on a surface level and maybe a little deeper if a viewer wanted to go there. But seeing it in the theater and with the benefit of the restoration (and maybe the benefit of my own experiences since the last time I saw it) yielded for me an increased appreciation of the sort of theme of the film. At the end, when they’re playing for the theater full of frenzied, mostly female teenagers, the shots from behind, where we see the crazed audience through the spaces between Ringo and his drum kit, are poetic. The slow tracking shot effectively contrasts the relative steadiness of their performance on stage with the hysteria looking back at them. So much of Beatlemania was wanting more of them, looking at them, asking things of them. Here we get their perspective–the absurdity of the interviews and the charm and good humor with which they approached them (at least, in those days), the many levels of their entrapment. The film is nearly all fun, all humorous, but underlying it there’s that constant need to get away. The film starts with them running, and ends with them flying and leaving a trail of promotional photographs–their image–in their wake. That the last song they play is “She Loves You” seems a very deliberate, meaningful choice. “She loves you”–all these crazy girls are mad for you and force you to be closed up in cars and hotels and to wear disguises and have scarcely a minute to yourself, whatever that would look like (you hardly know anymore)–”and you know you should be glad.” Right?