50 years later, A Hard Day’s Night is still brilliant

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A Hard Day’s Night promo poster, FilmForum, NYC

For a second-generation fan, one of the best things about all the 50th-anniversary-of-the-Beatles celebrations is the ability to (sort of) experience some of the original events that made the early ’60s one of the most exciting periods in modern music. Seeing the beautifully remastered A Hard Day’s Night in the theatre was one of those experiences.

I saw the movie at the Film Forum in NYC, a vintage independent movie house where the small theaters and screens made me feel like I was actually time-travelling back to 1964. That experience was enhanced with a celebration of A Hard Day’s Night that included posters, articles, and photos posted throughout the lobby (see photos above and below).

If you have never seen this movie, you’re missing out. After 50 years and countless innovations in filmmaking, it continues to hold up as excellent. And with good reason. Despite it’s subject matter—a fictionalized “day in the life” of the Fab Four—this was no bubble-gum-pop movie. Written in the tradition of the slapstick British comedy The Goon ShowA Hard Days Night is full of high-level wit that rivals early Monty Python. Despite being filmed on a tiny budget and in record time—producers figured the Beatles would be yesterday’s news by the time it finished it’s theatrical run—A Hard Day’s Night surpassed all initial expectations, transcending it’s time period and genre. Fifty years later, critics still hail it as a top film; it even made Time magazine’s list of the Top 100 movies of all time.

Though I expect a lot of the references went over many young fans’ heads, especially for non-Brits, the movie endeared thousands of fans to the Beatles, establishing them as four separate people with distinct personalities, rather than the “four-headed monster” many early critics expected. Thus, the (exaggerated) personality traits that the script emphasized—”witty” John, “cute” Paul, “quiet” George, and “sad” Ringo—were solidified in fans’ minds for decades afterwards, likely to the Beatles’ chagrin as they tried to break out of that mold through the later ’60s.

Seeing a Beatles movie in a theater for the first time was magical. It’s rare that many second- and third-generation fans get the experience of spending time with a group that loves the Beatles as much as they do, since many of us were—and are—a small minority among our top-40-loving peers. Despite being a mid-day showing, the house was full, and the collective laughter made us feel like we were reuniting with old friends. And there’s just something about this movie. The optimism, the excitement, and the innocence made the audience laugh (and at times, cry) together, reliving memories of 1964, whether we were there or not.

A Hard Day’s Night has ended its limited run in most cities, but if it’s still in your area, run and find it. If not, the new remastered version is available exclusively on Hulu Plus, and you can also buy or rent it on iTunes.

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