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Young Creatives Blog

The Big Picture – 'A Hard Day's Night'

Monday 14 March 2016

  • Review

I’m very much a Beatles novice. I know the classics, the photos and some of the band’s effect on popular culture, yet I still haven’t fully grasped the reason for their place in history. Author James Bradley’s choice of screening the band’s first feature film, A Hard Day’s Night, for PIAF’s ‘The Big Picture’ during Perth Writers Festival, gave me more of an idea as to why they’re so beloved – if just from the audience’s reaction. Bradley’s choice of this film comes from his up-and-down relationship with the ‘the fab four’. When he first saw the film as a teenager, he left the cinema on a ‘natural high’, but would ultimately fall out with the boys in his early twenties in a thwarted attempt to distance himself from this ‘cute obsession’. It obviously didn’t work out, becoming smitten with them again in his early forties – a ‘typical middle aged man crisis’, according to him. A Hard Day’s Night was one of the first slices of Beatlemania he reacquainted himself with and despite not having seen it since he was a teenager, that ‘natural high’ was back and stronger than ever.

There’s a reason for that. It works. It works really, really well. It screams a black and white 60’s that’ll make you go all Gil Pender from Midnight in Paris. You’ll desperately hope to turn a corner on a rainy Liverpool street and end up on a night out with the smiling mop-haired boys. I’ve grown up in an era where nearly every second major film is either a remake, reboot or product adaption. They’re obviously too good to be true in almost every case – so the fact that a genuinely creative film (about a pop band!) exists seems miraculous. I’ll go ahead and compare it to a favourite of mine – The Lego Movie (if you’re not a fan, we’ll talk later). On the one hand it’s a brilliant advertisement, and on the other, an unpretentiously great time at the cinema. Shot like a feature length music video with the simplest of plots – the four boys need to get on stage before it’s too late! The guys aren’t treated by the director as teen idols or rock icons. They’re literally just a group of lads living the ultimate teenage fantasy: charm the girl, escape the coppers and leap on stage as they countdown to airtime. And be in the biggest rock and roll band, ever.

It’s fun to compare this with the films we’re currently given about pop-idols, the likes of Justin Bieber and One Direction (please note that I’m not putting them on par with The Beatles) are treated with documentaries, rather than fictional takes on what they could get up to in their spare time. We’re now more interested in celebrity – rags to riches stories, the allure of fame, the big names we get to see. A Hard Day’s Night, which was perhaps the first major film following a band, decides to follow four boys who just happen to be living every teenager’s fantasy, rather than gushing over their exceptional good looks or talents. It’s this timeless appeal of four boys mucking around, who happen to be exceptionally good looking and know a song or two that saves this from being filler boy band material. Fun fact: the band’s name isn’t even mentioned in the film. This approach is genius, as well – so much of a boy band’s appeal comes from each member’s distinct personality, and how they interact with each other on stage and in interviews. Bradley made it clear before the film’s screening that a key factor for The Beatles legacy has been their string of extremely lucky choices. A great example of this was in their choice of screenwriter Allun Owen, whose perfect ear for Liverpool dialogue and zany sense of humour flawlessly captured The Beatles wildly exciting life.

On speaking with PIAF guests about the film, they all said how ‘it must be dated now’. But it’s not. Sure, in some very small parts – you wouldn’t catch a modern teen-icon proudly smoking in front of the camera, and there’s no smartphones or Twitter trolls – but all the energy and creativity behind the film resonated with the PIAF audience almost as strongly as it did 50 years ago. And it might’ve just triggered something of a new obsession for myself.

Young Creative: Lotterywest Festival Films

Written By Finnian Williamson