A Hard Day's Night ★★★★★

Over at my music blog I'm 2/3 finished with an exhaustive survey of the Beatles' career and discography, and I also intend to say a bit about each of the films they made and other peripheral movies, which was a nice excuse to rewatch the whole run of them.

Greil Marcus wrote the following about this film in 1979: "Seeing it today, one can hardly help but cry, realizing how completely the world of this film is gone for good." Among other things, the world he's talking about is that in which an aberration like the Beatles could infiltrate previously hallowed and somber elements of the entertainment business, of postwar England, of the Old World at large; with the help of Brian Epstein and a virtually unduplicated combination of mass appeal and ruthless creative consistency, they confronted a universe that wasn't prepared for them and tried its best to harness their energy for its own ends, but they were too fast. Through the entirety of their career, the Beatles would remain "in control" to an extent almost no artist since has been permitted to explore, and Richard Lester's extraordinary document / satire of their peak years is a masterpiece because it flaunts their unique position, subverts the establishment with absolute immunity, does absolutely everything it can think of with the possibilities while still retaining a sense of surprisingly pervasive melancholy -- the in-built knowledge of two contradictory truths: this cannot last forever, and somehow, this will last forever. It renews itself every time one witnesses it and everyone on and off screen is suddenly young again, and it increases in poignance the further away we get from its tireless, anarchic sense of infinite possibility, and the more prescient its barely-hidden pensiveness and anguish come to feel. Much like the Beatles' music, especially their early work, it gets richer the more familiar you become with it, and the more Ringo's remark that "being middle-aged and old takes up most of your time" comes to seem like the urgent, passionate thesis of the film. This movie isn't just everything I want from art and entertainment, it contains at least a touch of everything I want from life, and I feel invariably more alive and awake after viewing it. And know this: having just finished Peter Guralnick's exhaustive Elvis biography... the Beatles are so lucky they were given their own choice of collaborators; no one but Lester could have so elegantly crafted its arresting fusion of style and intimacy.

Nathan liked these reviews