A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

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Get me a bottle of milk and some tranquilisers. Screenwriter Alun Owen and director Richard Lester’s semi-documentary, wholly New Wave account of a day in the life of the world’s biggest band works wonderfully.  Shot in glistening monochrome by the inventive Gilbert Taylor the Beatles are on a train with Paul’s bolshie Irish grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell) who is ‘very clean,’ as everyone keeps remarking. Hounded by their fans, they are performing on a TV show directed by Victor Spinetti while their put-upon manager Norm (Norman Rossington) and road manager Shake (John Junkin) try to corral this travelling circus as Grandpa keeps going missing, showing up variously in a casino and a police station. Taylor and the five camera operators run around with Arriflexes capturing the minutiae of the band’s characters who are defined in smart exchanges and incidents, with wonderfully droll moments of mockery, self- and otherwise.  The resulting freedom accorded Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr adds to the sense of  naturalism and reality. The visual wit is complemented by the auditory, with overdubbing and non-synchronous sound combining to create an overwhelming atmosphere of effervescent fun and immediacy:  these guys are young and pulpy and enjoying their first brush with fame and their caustic, cheeky chappie Scouse personalities come across extraordinarily. That enjoyment wouldn’t last (see Ron Howard’s Eight Days a Week) but these indelible images contributed to their myth. You probably know the songs … Edited by John Jympson.

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (2016)

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Who are The Beatles? Get me The Beatles! Get me hepcats that sound like The Beatles! Get me a young Beatles! Who are The Beatles? Imagine a world where The Beatles never existed. It’s not easy if you try. The story of their early years: the tours, the fans, the madness, the constant travel; the songwriting; the link between Lennon and McCartney; the moment Ringo joined and made them a band; playing in sports stadia through Tannoys;  the impossible demands; not being able to hear themselves onstage, not being able to hear what they really needed, inside;  endless contracts, their democratic structure (all four agreed or not at all); and the constancy of their friendship;  the final concert in Candlestick Park, SF, August 1966; the way they used their difficulties to create even more majestic music when they retreated to the recording studio. And the end. Before any of them had reached the age of 30. Ron Howard uses stills, archive footage, latterday interviews with stars who are fans, journalists who accompanied them, director Richard Lester who made their films – rush-released cos nobody thought they’d last – composer Howard Goodall who rates them with Mozart and Schubert, new interviews with McCartney and Starr (DPd by Caleb Deschanel, not too shabby) and the songs. The songs. I sang along like I was in the front row of their concerts. All of it is contextualised with news footage of another, troubled time and we’ve seen a lot of this before, but it’s the music. The music will never die. Soundtrack of my life. Written by Mark Monroe and PG Morgan.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

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For some of us who saw the film of the Beatles at Shea Stadium it may well have been our best concert ever – even if the band couldn’t hear a note they played over the hysterical fans’ screams! Bob Zemeckis’ directing debut from his screenplay with co-writer Bob Gale captures some of the craziness as four New Jersey teens head for NYC intending to do anything to score tickets for the Fab Four’s first appearance on US TV on the fabled Ed Sullivan show. Familiar 70s faces – Nancy Allen, Bobby DiCicco and Eddie Deezen!!! make the most of this very fun outing for us and them. Good jokes about mop tops (literally!), corridors (though not as many as in The Shining) and a lot of good visual and audio trickery to show that ‘The Beatles’ are in the movie (Cuban heels, Liverpool accents…). And aside from the high jinks, it’s graced with songs by the legendary performers, in all their analog finery. Terrific production (by Steven Spielberg) and the follow up by Zemeckis and Gale is the BRILLIANT Used Cars (and if you haven’t seen that, you’re missing one of the most hilarious films ever!) There’s a very good skit here featuring a clock tower, electricity and lightning …. wonder where they might have used that again?! The protest song fan Janis is played by Paul Newman’s daughter under the name Susan Kendall Newman.