Richard Lester John Seelye - Essay

John Seelye

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] three motifs introduced during the early moments of [A Hard Day's Night]—running (flight), antagonism towards the establishment (order), and subsequent mayhem (misrule)—are extended by variation throughout the remainder of the action. The unifying tension is that which exists between the harried manager of the troupe … and his obstreperous charges, a good-natured badinage which has, as always in such cases, an underlying darkness. The Manager wants them to "behave," to "shape up," to "stop clowning around." They, on the other hand, seek to escape his supervision and to disobey his orders. One is invariably reminded of a group of school boys on an outing in the charge of a bullying but ineffectual master. (p. 53)

Hard Day's Night is different from the usual pap. For one thing, it is technically exciting—in both senses of the words. The camera is very much alive: it runs, it jumps, it seldom is caught standing still. Unlike the bland flatness of the Elvis movies (which are reminiscent of the old SatEvePost illustrations), the image on the screen has depth. Gilbert Taylor, the cameraman, takes his techniques as he finds them, and he finds them everywhere. Much of the acting is apparently designed to suggest improvisation, and the camera assists this by a pseudo-documentary awkwardness. As in a documentary, the camera is insistently there, probing, pointing, pursuing, predicating. There are, as well, suggestions of nouvelle vague: the sequences in which the Beatles jape and juggle are presented in such a way as to remind one of the filmic high jinks in recent French movies. (pp. 53-4)

John Seelye, "'A Hard Day's Night'," in Film Quarterly (copyright 1964 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission of the University of California Press), Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Fall, 1964, pp. 51-4.