Archives / 1999 Sundance Film Festival

A Hard Day’s Night

Institute History

Description

In retrospect, combining Richard Lester’s madcap, freewheeling comic style with theBeatles’ iconoclastic sense of anarchy and absurdity seems like a marriage made in heaven. But in 1964, few people knew much about either of them. In fact, A Hard Day’s Night was shot in seven weeks for just over half-a-million dollars to capitalize on the Beatles’ unexpected popularity, which the producer feared wouldn’t last.
A Hard Day’s Night is a zany romp through thirty-six hours in the lives of the Fab Four as they travel to London for a television appearance. They harass train passengers, exchange witty banter, and cavort with the police on the city streets as they frantically search for Ringo, who has disappeared because he feels unappreciated. Additional mayhem is created by Paul’s mischievous “grandfather” (Wilfrid Brambell), who foments trouble wherever he goes.
Alun Owen’s script takes full advantage of the Beatles’ irreverent humor and spontaneity. Lester innovatively combines cinema vérité images with surreal, kaleidoscope editing to capture the group’s explosive energy. A perfect example is “Can’t Buy Me Love,” where the boys burst out of the studio and down a fire escape to square dance and play children’s games.
Brimming with early Beatles hits and Lester’s inimitable comic momentum, A Hard Day’s Night set the standard for the multitude of concert films to follow. To mark the thirty-fifth anniversary, the film has been rereleased with a fully restored negative and digitally mastered stereo sound. Don’t miss the chance to see or revisit this hilarious classic.


Richard Lester, Director
Richard Lester was born in Philadelphia and did his early work in television until migrating to London in 1955. In 1963 The Mouse That Roared revealed his flair for fast-paced comedy, and he teamed up with the Beatles on A Hard Day’s Night and Help! . Other films in his prolific career include The Knack , A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum , Petulia , The Three Musketeers , The Four Musketeers , and Robin and Marian . He was the subject of a retrospective at Sundance in 1990.

— Barbara Bannion

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