A Hard Day's Night is a fictionalized account of The Beatles' experiences during one day of touring... throughout the film, they run inside trains, escape from hordes of screaming girls, play their songs, and try to keep Paul's "grandfather" from getting into trouble. It's shot in lovely black and white, set to the world's most famous soundtrack, and full of sudued ironic humour as well as slapstick.
The first thing that must be taken in consideration when reviewing AHDN, is that if you don't like The Beatles, there is no way in hell that you will like it. This film was made to publicize the group, to define each of them and create their own individual stereotypes -which remained in the public's mind all through the end of their career-, and to highlight their records. I think the idea was to take advantage of The Beatles' wit and the sort of scruffy elegance that was to them at the time: market it, make the world love them even more. The Beatles and their team were visionaries when launching this endeavor, creating at once one of the first rock movies and also preluding their later proto "video clips", pretty recognizable predecessors of music television.
Other than the "visionary" quality there is to A Hard Day's Night, there is also one related to how it captures the spirit of the sixties' entertainment business: the madness, the obsession with hipness, in an almost satiric manner. There is a combination of caricaturesque and realistic characters, a juxtaposition of sanity and insanity, that makes it very endearing and very in accordance to the wild-spirited sixties; mind you, this is before the Beatles went hippy and still wore suits, and so there is also a charming contradiction between their overall carelessness and their well-groomed image. The jokes are funny, but subtle, and the slapstick is not overdone. The Beatles were not the world's greatest actors, but they could deliver their lines with confidence, and whenever there is an awakward moment the script is to blame, rather than the performances. Ringo, Paul, John and George seemed to be having the time of their lives: the screen lights up whenever they appear. They buy into these stereotypes of themselves mockingly, as a lark, and exploit them. They go with the speedy flow of the film like they're so happy to be there, it's contagious. The scenes on the train kick out a fascination with the four of them that is rewarded during the final concert scenes... The experience of watching A Hard Day's Night is priceless, it's like being witness to an event that changed history.
In the end, A Hard Day's Night can be appreciated both as a classic comedy and a sixties period piece. And even despite any acting flaws, it's impossible not to fall in love with the Beatles, so do approach the film because you like their music, or because you're curious, or because you're really into the sixties. Don't, if you for some reason hate the Beatles! Because there's nothing here for you.
I turned the DVD off feeling a mixture of nostalgia for a time I didn't live and for people I didn't know, and a silly inexplicable happiness. Then, I went straight to the vinyl pile in my collection.