July/August 2014

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14 CINEMONTAGE / JUL-AUG 14 by Kevin Lewis I t is hard to believe now, but in the early 1960s, the young, long-haired Liverpudlian lads John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (known collectively as the Beatles) were considered to be an insidious force, challenging British as well as American stereotypes of youthful masculinity, just as their distinctive, infectious "beat music" threatened to take over the pop charts of both countries. In short order, the band succeeded decisively; thanks to the Fab Four, as they were dubbed, popular music underwent a massive sea change and boys' hair and fashion were never the same again. And the girls screamed and squealed in delight over both. When their first film, A Hard Day's Night, premiered in July 1964 in the UK (and a month later in the US), Village Voice film critic Andrew Sarris called it "the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals." It proved a game changer — not only for the increasing popularity of the musical group (if American kids weren't already Beatles fans, they certainly were after seeing the film), but for musicals and music-based films, which were never the same again. In fact, almost every genre of film — from spy thrillers to caper comedies — was influenced by the innovative editing, including jump cuts, zooms in and out, and handheld, cinema vérité-style cinematography, all of which were inspired by the contemporary Nouvelle Vague movement in French cinema. Not much was expected of the film, in which the Beatles play themselves, because it was only created to cash in on Beatlemania, which had already swept Britain and was surging in the States, especially after the group's historic debut performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. In fact, production began only a month later. Producer Walter Shenson had a distribution arrangement with United Artists Pictures for the low-budget ($500,000) black-and-white film, as well as its much-anticipated soundtrack album. Because expectations were low, American expatriate director Richard Lester, who had been working in British television for a decade, had the freedom to be daring and experimental with A Hard Day's Night. He had directed one prior music- THIS MONTH IN FILM HISTORY Les Beatles Nouvelle Vague: A HARD DAY FOR NIGHT A Hard Day's Night. United Artists/ Photofest CineMontage_Jul-Aug_14-4.indd 14 6/18/14 5:29 PM

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