If you don't see A Hard Day's Night -- the black-and-white comedy portrayal of The Beatles ascending to the height of their fame -- in its 50th anniversary re-release this Wednesday at The Castro, you are what the stars of the movie would call "a drag, a well-known drag."
And in case you haven't seen this film in the last 50 years, the faux-documentary design of A Hard Day's Night pays homage to these contradictions in a scripted comedy based in part on verbatim quotes and intercut with real shots of the Fab Four. A Hard Days Night successfully lifts the curtain on The Beatles as personalities and lowers a shade dividing us from their true selves; the more witty and self-effacing they are the more we feel, artificially, that we can be a part of their stardom. Alun Owen's lackadaisical take on Liverpudlian humor renders John, Paul, George, and Ringo musical Marx Brothers. Their style of comedy, which seems to have died out of modern cinema along with black-and-white film, is a constant source of joy.
As the four young men scramble to escape from their pursuers, we, the audience, realize that we have been participating in the screaming mob intent on suffocating these heroes with our love -- a nostalgic Tom chasing after four elusive Jerries. So much more of the humor in the movie derives from the boys escaping fanatical love than benefiting from it. The Beatles are so appealing on screen because they are uncontrollably alive, and both our behavior to them and their reactions to that behavior are hilarious and oddly tragic. We can't own The Beatles, but we can borrow them, and A Hard Day's Night lets us do just that, admitting each audience member to the fantasy that she is a member of the Fab Five.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of A Hard Day's Night, the movie plays this Wednesday at The Castro Theater at 5:30 and 7:30 as well as Berkeley's Rialto Cinemas Elmwood at various times this week and at the Del Mar theater in Santa Cruz this week as well.