Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Mother of all Music Videos

Rock music didn't start with them, nor end with them. Though their music was often dismissed as sugary sweet nothings, they sold more records than anybody else. And if you want to know, 40 years later, just what was so special about "Beatlemania", you got to watch the musical romp that goes by the name of A Hard Day's Night.

For all those who suffered through Glitter, Crossroads, Spice or any other of the modern atrocities, this movie is an object lesson in how to make a movie solely for purposes of exploitation, and yet come up with pure genius - one of the smoothest, freshest, funniest films ever. It seems better than it ought to be simply because the lads prove themselves charmingly disarming. Looking and behaving like four errant boys, the four disparate individuals that made up the amorphous group slip nimbly through a script that seems entirely improvised, yet entirely brilliant.

When it opened in late 1964, the Beatles were already a publicity phenomenon, but not yet cultural icons. A Hard Day's Night is smart, irreverent, and doesn't take itself seriously. And it is charged with the personalities of the Beatles. The boys may have had a clone look - matching hair and clothes - but the individuality of their dialogue left one in no doubt which one was John, Paul, George, or Ringo.

The movie is filled with the exhilaration of four geniuses who knew how to have fun while creating pure magic. If I were to pick my three magical moments of the film, the first would be the opening sequence, which shows the Beatles mobbed at a station as they try to board a train. The energy level is just incredible: we can feel the hysteria of the fans and the excitement of the Beatles, and the title song plays in the background. Second is when the boys run like children in an open field, while the magic of Can't Buy Me Love celebrates the notion of doing your own thing.

And finally we have the magic of the concert footage as the Beatles sing She Loves You. As the Beatles perform, they are clearly having a lot of fun. And the fans are all delirious. Some girls scream without pause, some jump up and down, and one tearful young blonde, beside herself with ecstasy, cries out "George!''. All creating a frenzy so passionate that it still, after all these years, has the power to excite. After more than four decades, it has not aged and is not dated: it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock.

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