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He Loves It Yeah Yeah Yeah

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 8, 2000


    'A Hard Day's Night' The Fab Four are back and still working like dogs in "A Hard Day's Night."
It doesn't matter how many times you see these images. They're always exciting. And "A Hard Day's Night" is back to let you see them again: the Beatles. There they are, like brand new: John, Paul, George and Ringo – always in that order – standing together on a cramped bandstand, dressed in tunic-style shirts, tapered pants, black zip-up boots.

Check out those mop-top heads, as if for the first time, or John's buck teeth, Paul's cheesy grin, Ringo's floppy hair and George's shy, downward glances. And now, watch those screaming women in the audience, their mouths mutely mouthing "John," or "Paul" before their faces fold into anguished compression. And enjoy that solitary, ringing chord, the one that begins the song "A Hard Day's Night."

I think you're prepped. I think you're ready for Richard Lester's spirited, playful romp, starring the Beatles, which is now 36 years old.

Yes sir, that would be 1964. After the Cuban Missile Crisis but way, way before Britney Spears. And now the movie's back, for no other reason than Miramax Pictures has deemed it so. It's retrofitted with a digitally restored soundtrack and fully restored images. But it's still in black and white. And the songs remain magnificently the same.

And so do the Beatles, four cheeky, overgrown children, who spend most of this movie running riot around 1960s England, tweaking society's stuffiest archetypes, from the bowler-hatted snob reading the morning papers to the peevish TV director (Victor Spinetti) trying to get the band to behave before their on-air show.

"We know how to behave," says John, like a long-suffering schoolboy. "We've had lessons."

What's wonderful about this movie, written by Alun Owen, is the twilight zone the movie lives in (somewhere between faux documentary and surrealistic music video) and the utter comfort of the Beatles.

Despite playing "roles" in a fanciful story that includes such fictional, vaudevillian characters as Paul's mischievous grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell), the Beatles are serenely themselves. There's John the iconoclast, sitting in the bathtub, playing with a toy submarine and yelling "Guten Morgan, mein Herr!" And there's George, suffering his way through the dumb questions of the media.

"What do you call that hairstyle?" comes one question.

"Arthur?" replies George.

Individually, they're sweet enough. Together, they're almost celestial: spirited, naughty angels, confounding and charming adoring mortals around them with that almost nuclear-powered playfulness. Director Lester mirrors their comical spirit perfectly with highly imaginative editing and kinetic camera work. His style and their content reach perfect harmonic convergence as the group hams it up on a sports field while we listen to "Can't Buy Me Love" on the soundtrack. It's a wonderful world, that Beatles world, and we crave desperately to get in.

Does 1960s Beatlemania mean anything in a world where the newest Eminem or Backstreet Boys album sells in days what the Beatles took months, even years, to achieve? Surely so. "A Hard Day's Night" anticipates almost everything that has become routine in the pop world, from music videos to fawning fanzine coverage. And to watch the movie, and to enjoy such pop music classics as "All My Loving" and "She Loves You" is not merely to saunter down Memory or Penny Lane, but to drink at pop's headwaters.

"A Hard Day's Night" (G, 84 minutes) – Contains innocent naughtiness.


Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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