Not quite 20 years after the second world war, and with Winston Churchill technically not yet dead, Dick Lester directed this hugely popular and influential Beatles movie from a script by veteran TV writer Alun Owen.
The film (now on re-release for its 50th anniversary) is a larky and quaint fantasy of the group on tour, bunking off, sprinting around like the Keystone Robbers and cheeking their elders and not-betters in the toffee-nosed south. Wilfrid Brambell plays Paul's glowering Irish grandad, surreally along for the ride.
A Hard Day's Night looks chaotic and slapdash enough (and just occasionally, for me, depressing enough) to count as an experimentalist or underground movie. Film was not a medium in which the Beatles showed any real interest (unlike Sinatra or Elvis), but A Hard Day's Night captures the spirit of the times and the band themselves are so unselfconsciously awful at acting that this has documentary value: a picture of a pinched and starved nation, waking up to this new energy. Undernourished Britons really did buy milk in those difficult-to-open triangular cartons from street-vending machines: Tom Courtenay has one at the end of Billy Liar. (There's also a sharp pre- or proto-Troubles moment when Brambell tells the west London coppers they've got sadism stamped all over their British kissers, and he'll go on hunger strike.)
John's own face – so sharp and humorous and shrewd – is enduringly fascinating, especially compared to Paul's childlike innocence, which remains angelic even as he smokes a fag.
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