For the second film in my 2017 Blind Spot picks I feel like a bit of context is needed. As anyone who knows me in real life knows, I am a massive fan of The Beatles. Most of the music on my iPod are Beatles songs, Across The Universe is one of my favourite films, and I’ve got the Lego Yellow Submarine sitting on my desk. However, I feel like (aside from Yellow Submarine) I’ve been ignoring the films made by The Beatles. This month though I wanted to correct that and decided to watch the most acclaimed film The Beatles made, A Hard Day’s Night and it’s easy to see why A Hard Day’s Night got the reputation it has.It’s not really worth going over the plot of the film as there really isn’t one. The film is just a day in the life (pun not intended) of The Beatles, mostly taking place in a theatre before a televised performance. There are a few plot elements but they feel more episodic, such as the Beatles escaping from their fans so they can catch a train, feeling trapped in a hotel room whilst they have to answer their fan mail before eventually leaving for a night club and a few plot elements with Paul McCartney’s granddad and his con artist nature affecting the band, mainly Ringo. The film does about as accurate a job as can be achieved in showing a day in the life of the Beatles, many of the elements in the film, the inane press conferences and the mobs of fans, being true to life, just watch the documentary Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years. The best aspects of the film meanwhile come through the performances from The Beatles. There’s a great deal of comedy in the film as a result of strong writing and the brilliant chemistry that the Beatles have. The different members of the band all have a distinct personality, with Ringo’s worry about not seeing enough of the world and not mattering in the band creating some of the drama in the film. The best moments though come when we just see The Beatles interact with each other, the comic timing each of them have rivalling professional comedians and a lot of it is natural humour that each of The Beatles have. Professional comedic actors do have a role in the film though, mainly in the form of Wilfrid Brambell as Paul’s granddad, constantly causing mischief in the background and creating some great comedic moments, along with a few references to his role in Steptoe and Son (called ‘clean’ constantly in this film, in contrast to Steptoe and Son where his character is always called dirty).
The main reason why the film was made though was to promote the album A Hard Day’s Night and if the film didn’t do a good job presenting the music then it would fall apart. This is where the structure of the film helps, a lot of the songs in the film being performed as part of the TV performance, both the actual performance and rehearsals, with the filming of the songs in this context being heavily influential for other music videos. The filming of other songs meanwhile takes a non-diagetic approach with the filming of these scenes also being incredibly influential. Using A Hard Day’s Night for the introduction where The Beatles are running away from their fans was a great choice and the helicopter filming for Can’t Buy Me Love is excellently handled, especially for 1964.
Overall, it’s easy to see why A Hard Day’s Night is such an influential film. Whilst it is light on plot it more than makes up for it with a strong sense of humour, buoyed by strong performances from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, the natural chemistry between the four creating some of the best comedic moments, whilst making effective use of the songs from the album A Hard Day’s Night, the titular song and Can’t Buy Me Love being the standouts. Whilst my favourite film the Beatles starred in (albeit for a few minutes) is still Yellow Submarine, A Hard Day’s Night is a close second.