Hard Day's Journey into Night
Perhaps the most amazing thing about A Hard Day's Night is that it's funny. Because what it was supposed to be is glaringly obvious: a major studio attempt to cash in on the four most marketable Brit boys in the world. That the film is entertaining seems an unexpected treat. Director Richard Lester turned the Beatles into a satire of themselves, a weird mod/rocker of a film that captures the insanity of Beatlemania. He adds a healthy dose of structured bizzareness with Paul's cranky grandfather (played by the veteran British actor and very clean Wilfrid Brambell) and then keeps the entire production surreal and fun with a cartoon reality, brilliantly flip dialogue by all the boys (especially John) and a playfulness that took nothing seriously, least of all the film itself.
Or perhaps the most amazing thing is that it's still funny, and still good. Elvis movies were always kind of watchable, maybe borderline entertaining for the most part, but never fine cinema. A Hard Day's Night is just as funny now as it was in 1964, and just as savvy. The fanatic obsession with the top of pop culture is just as firmly embedded in our culture today as then, and, consequently, just as soundly mocked by the film; A Hard Day's Night is laughing as much at N'Sync as it is the Beatles, and the youth culture's obsession with both. The difference is the Beatles were always in on the joke.
It's not at all surprising that the music is still good. They're the Beatles. But watch the four gad and prance about in the field during "Can't Buy Me Love" and you're watching an early music video, one that mocks their own self-indulgence just as they indulge.
You don't have to be a Beatles fan to enjoy the timeless satire and hilarity of A Hard Day's Night. It'll help you get through the seven songs interspersed throughout the plot with a gleefully market-desired egocentrism.
A Hard Day's Night is a pinnacle of pop culture, and relevant as long as pop culture exists. And it captures more than that. With its youthful exuberance and self-centeredness, the Beatles film is eternally young and hopeful, still vaguely rebelling against age and control and a cranky society. And most of all the film knows it's still important to be clean.
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