In article <email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org (Jay C. Smith) writes:
>...the fact that the Beatles were appearing in what was really an
>exploitation film and not some high-minded prestigious production made
>stereo sound unlikely for their film (hey, AHDN was even in black-and-white,
>though in the early '60's color wasn't as common in what were considered
>British "domestic" films as it was in American films).
Well put; but it's worth pointing out that the use of B&W stock in '50's- '60's-British films was often deliberate. True, it was cheaper to use it; and in the case of "A Hard Day's Night" the choice was probably made by the studio (United Artists) or the producer (Walter Shenson) on the basis of budget rather than artistic desire. And there's no question that Lester knew the studio expected him to produce a simple teen exploitation film of the Beatles. It's interesting that the product exceeded those bounds so spectacularly.
Lester was a significant talent waiting for the right material---and "A Hard Day's Night" was certainly the fulfillment of his early potential. But Lester---originally an American who'd been living in England to work in TV and films since the mid-fifties---had the foresight to hire equally gifted technicians (Gilbert Taylor for "lighting", or what was actually cinematography, and John Jympson for editing---Lester admitted that Jympson's frenetic editing-hand was more adept than his own) to give the film its high-contrast sharply graphic look, something like a kinetic version of the Beatles' stillimagery so well exemplified by Robert Freeman, Astrid Kirchher, and Dezo Hoffman.
Then too, Lester was exposed to the milieu of the British film, including a movement known as "free cinema" or the Woodfall "school"---a sharp B&W documentary-style realism popularized by Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Jack Clayton, Joseph Losey, and Lindsay Anderson, starring young actors like Albert Finney, Alan Bates, and Tom Courtenay who portrayed working-class lads caught in grim struggles against society. It's often struck me how "AHDN" dovetails into that category of filmmaking, and in terms of timeline "AHDN" comes eight years into the movement (though by no means at its end).
But even more revealing is Lester's own after-the-fact assessment of "AHDN" (from Philip di Franco's 1970 interview): "The general aim of the film was to present what was becoming a social phenomenon in this country [i.e., England]. Anarchy is too strong a word, but the quality of confidence that the boys exuded! Confidence that they could dress as they liked, speak as they liked, talk to the Queen as they liked, talk to people on the train who 'fought the war for them' as they liked. You must accept the fact that this is a film based on a class society....I mean a society that was still based on privilege---privilege by schooling, privilege by birth, privilege by accent, privilege by speech. They were the first people to attack this...." (Philip di Franco, "The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night; a complete pictorial record of the movie", Penguin Books, 1977, p. 5).
Well, not *quite* the first. :-) But in British pop music, the success of these cheeky Northern lads was a first of *its* kind. And the fact that Lester was aware of the potential power of a documentary-like look at four boys from the underclass suggests that the use of B&W stock for the film may have had more significance than as just a money-saving technique or as the hallmark of a cheap teen movie.
The use of color in "Help!" was more in keeping of that film's storyline involving the decidely-more fantastical lifestyles of four famous pop idols; color enhances a dream-world more efficiently that everyday black-and-white realism. If Lester had had the opportunity to film "AHDN" in color, do you suppose he would have used it? I can't find his opinion on such an eventuality, but for my money it would have been a very different work of art.
"Their basic beat is the off-beat, but this has recently tended to be accompanied by a faint on-beat...."
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