Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Hard Day's Night, 50 years on ... + SLIH

London's British Film Institute is celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first film A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, with an extended run of 34 screenings. I have the dvd but it would be nice to pop along and see it on the big screen again. It is very special to me. Prior to then, movies with pop stars were lame efforts like those early 60s Billy Fury and Cliff Richard vehicles (see music label), even the Elvis films were starting to look tired - then Richard Lester came along with Alun Owen's witty script and turned it all upside down. It was like a French New Wave zany comedy and not just to expoit the worldwide success of the Fab Four. It is both comedy and almost documentary showing the boys as prisoners of their success, and also some of those songs are staged and filmed like the first pop promos. 

It chronicles a few days in the life of the band, on trains, in the studio, trying to get some space for themselves as they are pursued by hysterical fans, clueless reporters, a fretful manager and Paul's grand-dad (Steptoe's Wilfrid Brambell) the essence of a "dirty old man" though they keep saying how clean he is here! The moptops are all individuals - we all had our favourites - and are all great here. The great Victor Spinetti (see label) is a scream as the neurotic tv studio director driven to distraction by the Boys. Add in that dry Scouse humour as the four lads ooze charisma and charm, and of course those songs!. Lester too keeps it all flying - it revolutionised screen musicals at a time when Hollywood was still churning out moribund embalmed versions of stage shows like MY FAIR LADY. Jacques Demy in France though was doing something similar with his UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG - and the later LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT. 1965 saw Lester with The Beatles again and more pop promos but in colour this time, with HELP! I love that one even more ...

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT covers a very special moment for me, being 18 and new in London, and loving the Beatles and their music. That summer I had to stay out in London all night, as I went to see a late night French movie (at the old Academy in Oxford Street) and could not get home to the suburbs - no late night transport then! - so as dawn broke I was walking down Regent Street (where I would later spend over 20 years working) as the sun was rising over the old London Pavilion cinema where A HARD DAY'S NIGHT was playing, so the posters and pictures were everywhere. It suddenly felt good to be 18 and new in London as dawn was breaking .... its one of those moments that stay with one!  Richard Lester is introducing a screening on the 3rd July.
The BFI are also doing an extended run (34 more screenings) of "the best comedy ever made" SOME LIKE IT HOT - and I can only agree with that. Again, no matter how many times one has seen it - and I have a lot since its release in 1959 - it is always marvellous to see it on a cinema screen with an audience, as that impeccable well-constructed script plays out as played by that cast. SOME LIKE IT HOT will always be in my Top Ten. I will be going again ...

Good too to see the BFI screening that rarity I found a while ago - THE SQUEEZE, that terrific 1972 British thriller capturing the grubby, sleazy gangland in 1972 London with Hemmings and Boyd in great late roles.  
As they say: "If THE SQUEEZE plays like an amped-up, sexed-up feature length 70s TV crime show, its probably down to screenwriter Leon Griffiths ...... director Michael Apted makes maximum use of the London locations, and directs the proceedings with commendable energy by embracing the sleaze and grubbiness of the story. "

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