He Loves It Yeah Yeah Yeah
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 8, 2000
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.
The Fab Four are back and still working like dogs in "A Hard Day's Night."
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
"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.