There’s probably absolutely nothing new to be said about Richard Lester’s 1964 classic A Hard Day’s Night. Oceans of ink have been spilled on it, and I’m responsible for some of it. The truth is, however, that there are always going to be people who have never seen it, and there are always going to be people who want to see it one more time. Those of us who saw it in 1964 realized — even if a lot of us were too young to articulate it — that this was something very special, something almost magical and that the movies would never quite be the same. The years have proved that — and they’ve proved that the magic is still there at the flip of a projector switch. What’s even more remarkable is that the movie was envisioned as a cheap cash-in on Beatlemania (in fact, Beatlemania was its working title) — a carefully contrived pseudo-documentary that presented the Beatles as the world wanted them to be (reality only slightly intrudes). But somehow it managed to actually capture for all time the sense of that moment, and it did so, in part, by breaking nearly every rule in the book about what a movie should be.
All movies work better with an audience, but a film like A Hard Day’s Night becomes a separate experience with one. Whether you saw it in 1964 in a theater packed with screaming kids or at a college screening or on its 2000 re-issue or even the recent local screening, it’s always new and different with a new audience. (I suppose it’s possible to get a dud audience, but I’ve never seen it happen.) I remember the kids in ’64 (and that slightly perplexed me at the time), but I also remember the later audiences. I remember the little girl — no more than seven or eight — lying flat on her back right under the screen upstairs at the Fine Arts just staring up at John, Paul, George and Ringo. I remember the guy who got up and danced in the aisle at that recent screening. There’s always something — and you get a masterpiece of film in the bargain.