A Hard Day's Night ★★★½

One thing that made Lester a unique auteur was he saw himself as a comic screwball who took realism as a virtue nonetheless. So there's an emphasis on swinging and twirling cameras, but he still enjoys the idea of the comic body as well. The boys swinging through the air and running in fast motion makes them into silent comedians in a lot of ways (as does the emphasis on the giant group of girls running — a mass audience). Often the camera will be direct on the ground—giving the sense of the world from viewed on up (with the wind blowing the grass, a very realist touch).

When Lester enters the “real world” (or corporate world), the camera often enters a classical continuity style: ordered, imposed, shots reverse shot all done with tripods. He creates a distinct dichotomy between the world of the old order and that of the new free world. But even in the play sequence, the camera returns to a level depiction and slows down when the man reveals the land as his “private property” once again returning the rigid, class-based order to the world. Lester is always trying to find ways for these worlds to collide, even with simple gags like the grandfather emerging on the stage during the classical play rehearsal.

Like Running Jumping & Standing as well as The Knack…, the dichotomy is central to what happens. By often revealing the means of the technique, it only adds to both realism and screwball at once, seeing them as part of a necessary continuity of tradition. In the final sequence of A Hard Day’s Night, Lester brings this into fruition in the form of the mediated performance. The constant zoom outs and ins on television (emphasizing the creation of the image itself with showing the woman adjusting the levels) shows how much the realism of The Beatles is also mediated by television. Their own personas are both realist and manufactured—the emphatic close-ups on their mouths and eyes and noses and hair distort their otherwise full bodies into sensorial aspects, which are returned by the audience themselves. Lester’s mise en scéne is the blending of the amateur and the professional, the natural and the mediated, the real and the fantastique.

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