Call it a pseudo documentary. Call it a musical comedy. Call it the umpteenth home video cash-in of this particular title. Regardless, A Hard Day's Night ends up to be a series of fortunate events for both fans of the band and fans of anarchic comedy in the style of the Marx Brothers. Ironically, in this reviewer's critique of their finest film, Duck Soup, a similar comparison gets made: Just as persnickety musicologists debate the better Beatles album (the structured themed brilliance of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" vs. the organized chaotic excellence of "The White Album"), Marx Brothers enthusiasts (a different kind of Marxist than the followers of Karl just as the Beatles invoke a different kind of Lennonist than Vladimir) have the same back-and-forth over pretty much the same discussion points. Is the anarchic, Hellzapoppin', fun abandon of Duck Soup REALLY better than the polished studio musical comedy A Night at the Opera? Here, that point is moot but filmgoers see the unusual Marxist/Lennonist worlds brilliantly unite. Audiences get the best of all worlds, a merging of the greatest ever comedy team's side-splitting anarchy with the young, vital, and expert musicianship of the greatest ever rock band. Seeing as the world was sitting on a veritable faultline (the US was still smarting from JFK's assassination and escalating their involvement in Vietnam while the UK was dismantling the final pieces of the British Empire and undergoing a cultural shift that would later be called 'the Swinging '60s'), this chaotic romp all somehow made sense. Thankfully, it still does.
In the Beatles 1964 film debut, director Richard Lester captures a, ahem, 'typical' day in the life of the world's greatest rock band at the height of Beatlemania.
What's remarkable is that Lester, who takes to some remarkable handheld framing with his fly-on-the-wall shooting style, turns out a slapstick sing-a-long that owes as much to Jean-Luc Godard as Groucho's favorite director, Leo McCarey. Most importantly, in an era when it's nearly impossible to latch onto one face or personality in the rock bands that have sprung to popularity over the last 2-3 years (OneRepublic is dandy but just try visualizing one of the band members), this film evinces 4 distinct players who each shine with enough charm and wit to fuel the slapdash goings-on in the madcap kinda-sorta parody of their own early success. Loaded with too many extras to list here, the latest release, a "director approved" version, is the perfect way to celebrate 50 years of an unlikely film classic.
Bottom line: Worth Watching 8 Days a Week