Monday, July 10, 2006

An early clue to the new direction

I stumbled across this zealous and joyful appreciation of A Hard Day's Night today, and thought, "Damn, joy, something I don't usually feel lately!" One of the times I did come close to that joyful feeling was the week this winter my five-year-old son and I watched and rewatched A Hard Day's Night. He even picked up on liverpud slang in a weirdly intuitive way.

Anyway, this person's name is Emily Ponder, and she loved AHDN and wants to share her love.
A Hard Day's Night is a brilliant film. It has everything. It has boys cute enough to drive boatloads of girls completely batshit insane, screaming till they get so hoarse that when they come home their parents are like, “Oh hey Otis Redding, what’s up? You haven’t seen Jenny, have you?” And I'll just tell you now so you can stop wondering: Once our scientists get their priorities straight and finally build a goddamn time machine that can take me somewhere into the vicinity of the 1963-64 Beatles, if my striking good looks and trademark wit aren't getting me any closer to what's underneath those dashing round-collared suits, then flipping the hell out crying, running around, screaming, and generally acting like I'm on the way to the electric chair sounds like a decent Plan B to me. The movie is also is off-the-charts hilarious, just a goldmine of priceless one-liners and slapstick gags, drawn up and crafted on the shoulders of a kind of persistent subtextual melancholy, now mockingly contemptuous, now wistfully escapist, which lends a great complexity of tone to this star vehicle, and helps steer it safely past Charming Piece Of Merchandising and on towards Best Movie Of All Time.

But there are two other major factors nailing that gas pedal to the floor, which I want to say more about here:
1)It is masterfully directed by Richard Lester -- innovatively, interestingly, stylishly, and beautifully shot and cut to do justice to its subject.
2)It features the greatest film music ever.

I hope #2 was already obvious to you all, but the two are so inseparably intertwined that I feel obliged to hammer it home. When The Beatles pulled up to the table, Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, Elvis, and everyone else just threw down their cards and went home. Game the fuck over. Simple as that.

For me there is an ineffable but undeniable kind of spark, or charm, in the early Beatles, the kind that brings an instant grin to my face and an instant hand to the volume knob when I hear the opening of, say, “Please Please Me.” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you may stop reading now and go stand with the others under the sign that says SORRY, AWESOMENESS IS LOST ON ME to receive your complimentary cup of prune juice and a Bright Eyes album. At the core of the movie’s instantaneous appeal is a similar feeling of exhilarating insubordination, a joyous middle finger held right up in the face of any and all forms of The Man (and in this film, they are legion) standing in the way of Pure Beatle Fun. And Lester’s direction has a beautiful spontaneity, joining the reckless innovation of 60’s New Wave and verite with the anarchy of silent slapstick and surrealist film, which is more than capable of carrying that feeling visually. The handheld camera movements, the bizarre angles, the aerial shots, the slow and fast motion, the animated proof sheet photos, the cuts in time with the music, the self-reflexive shots of the cameras and monitors, all of it. A Hard Day’s Night isn’t just colored by or about that spark, that spirit in the music. It is of a piece with it, stylistically as well as thematically.

Reading that over while cutting and pasting I realize Ms. Ponder didn't really get into the verbal wit of that movie as much as she might have. So I searched and found this complete transcript of the film's dialogue. Pretty much every line is here, presented rather weirdly without saying whose line it is. Weird, but kinda cool.

Here is the brilliant sequence where George stumbles into the office of the youth marketeer (one of the many genius smaller roles in AHDN). There's a very hot secretary in this scene, the marketeer, and George :
I've got one.

I think so.

Yes, he can talk.

No, and I think you ought to see him.

All right.

Come on.


You don't see many of these nowadays, do you?

Come on.

Simon, will this do?

Not bad, dolly, not really bad. Turn around, chicky baby.

He's a definite poss. He'll look good alongside Susan.

This will be quite painless. Don't breathe on me, Adrian.

I'm terribly sorry, but there seems to be some sort of misunderstanding.

You can come off it with us.

Don't do all the old adenoidal glottal stop and carry on for our benefit.

I'm afraid I don't understand.

-My God, he's a natural.

-I told them not to send real ones.

They know by now, the phonies are much easier to handle.

Still, he's a good type.

We'd like you to give us your opinion on some clothes for teenagers.

By all means, I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality.

Not your real opinion. You'll learn it.

-Can he read?

-Of course I can.

I mean lines. Can you handle lines?

I'll have a bash.

Give him whatever it is they drink, a cokerama?


At least he's polite.

Show him the shirts. Adrian.

You'll like these.

You'll really dig them. They're fab and all the other pimply hyperboles.

I wouldn't be seen dead in them. They're dead grotty.


-Yeah, grotesque.

Make a note of that word and give it to Susan.

It's rather touching, really.

This kid is trying to give me his utterly valueless opinion...

...when I know that within a month...

...he'll be suffering from a violent inferiority complex...

...and loss of status because he isn't wearing one of these nasty things.

Of course they're grotty, you wretched
nit! That's why they were designed.

-But that's what you'll want.

-I won't.

-You can be replaced, chicky baby.

-I don't care.

And that pose is out too, Sunny Jim.

The new thing is to care passionately and be right wing.

Anyway, if you don't cooperate, you won't meet Susan.

And who's this Susan when she's at home?

Only Susan Campey, our resident teenager.

You'll have to love her. She's your symbol.

You mean that posh bird who gets everything wrong?

I beg your pardon?

The lads frequently sit round the television and watch her for a giggle.

Once we wrote these letters saying how gear she was and all that rubbish.

She's a trendsetter. It's her profession.

She's a drag. A well-known drag.

We turn the sound down on her and say rude things.

-Get him out of here.

-Have I said something amiss?

He's mocking the program's image.

-Sorry about the shirts.

-Get him out!

You don't think he's a new phenomenon, do you?

You mean an early clue to the new direction?

Where's the calendar?

No. It's all right. He's just a troublemaker.

The change isn't due for three weeks yet.

All the same, make a note not to extend Susan's contract.

Let's not take any unnecessary chances.

No comments: