A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 1964)

Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon in A Hard Day's Night
John: John Lennon
Paul: Paul McCartney
George: George Harrison
Ringo: Ringo Starr
Grandfather: Wilfred Brambell
Norm: Norman Rossington
Shake: John Junkin
TV Director: Victor Spinetti
Millie: Anna Quayle
Police Inspector: Deryck Guyler
Man on Train: Richard Vernon
Simon Marshall: Kenneth Haigh

Director: Richard Lester
Screenplay: Alun Owen
Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor
Film editor: John Jympson
Musical director: George Martin

I am the same age as Ringo Starr and was born only a little over a week before John Lennon, so I watch A Hard Day's Night with more than ordinary nostalgia, the kind that might make me say with Wordsworth, "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, / But to be young was very heaven!" except that I'd be lying. Still, if there was bliss to be had in that post-Kennedy-assassination, Goldwater-haunted, Cold War summer of '64, it was to be found in watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo larking about at the movies. It was a breath of optimism, a statement that youth could conquer the world. It didn't quite turn out that way, but it didn't for Wordsworth either: He was talking about the French Revolution, which proved not to be so heavenly. This is, of course, one of the great film musicals, packed with engaging songs. They may be more lightweight than the Beatles' later oeuvre, lifting the heart rather than stirring the imagination, but they're impossible to resist. It also slyly, cheekily makes its point about the generation the Beatles are trying to leave behind: the ineptly bullying managers, the fussy TV director, the marketing executive sure that he has a handle on What the Kids Want, the Blimpish man on the train who tells Ringo, "I fought the war for your sort." Ringo's reply: "I bet you're sorry you won." Celebrity is closing in on them, epitomized by the wonderfully elliptical dialogue in John's encounter with a woman who is sure that she recognizes him but then puts on her glasses and proclaims, "You don't look like him at all." John mutters, "She looks more like him than I do." Alun Owen's screenplay, written after hanging out with the Beatles, absorbing and borrowing their own jokes, was one of the two Oscar nominations the film received, along with George Martin's scoring. None of the songs, of course, were nominated. Neither were Richard Lester's direction, Gilbert Taylor's cinematography, or John Jympson's editing, all of which kept the film buoyant and fleet.