Friday, June 27, 2014

50 Years Later, It's Still Easy to Love A HARD DAY'S NIGHT

July 6 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night in the UK. It didn't make it to the United States until August 11, 1964, which happened to be my 8th birthday, but it's still July that it's most associated with. Summer. London. Cheeky youth on the run.

A Hard Day's Night was a hugely influential film, and not just as a promotional tool for the Beatles. It made director Richard Lester a major name, created the blueprint for music videos years before MTV, launched imitators like The Monkees TV show, and established a cinematic style of quick cuts driven by the beat of the music, of off-kilter images and unexpected narrative lines, that echoed in a whole lot of "modern" movies for a very long time. There is an irreverence and joy, a sense of irrepressible energy and irrepressible freedom, in A Hard Day's Night that made it something really special in its time, something we take for granted now. Roger Ebert captured the ethos of the movie perfectly in a 1996 essay when he wrote, "[I]t has not aged and is not dated; it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock. It is one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies."

I've seen A Hard Day's Night quite a few times on my television screen, but now I get the chance to see it on the big screen, as it was intended to be seen. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Janus Films is releasing a newly restored version of the film to theaters across the UK and the US.

Although the big release is supposed to be July 4, we'll get to see it starting July 3 at the Normal Theater. The Normal Theater is airing A Hard Day's Night on July 3, 4, 5 and 6. It will be shown each night at 7 pm for $7.

If you're interested in the whole list of venues, from Bear Tooth Cinema in Alaska to the Alamo Drafthouse in Kalamazoo and Bing Crosby Cinema in Spokane, click here and scroll down. In Illinois, we have a choice of the Normal Theater, The Art Co-op in Champaign, Landmark Cinemas in Peoria, the Tivoli in Downers Grove and the historic Music Box Theater in Chicago.

A special edition of A Hard Day's Night, including the new 4K digital restoration, two audio choices (a monaural soundtrack or the remixed 5.1 surround soundtrack), and a pile of extras like the earlier Richard Lester short The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film from 1959, interviews, audio commentary, trailers and print pieces, has also been released as of June 24 on Blu-Ray and DVD as part of the Criterion Collection.

On film, on DVD, on your iPad or on the big screen, A Hard Day's Night "has not aged and is not dated; it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock. It is one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies." And who doesn't need to affirm life and the movies every once in awhile?

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