A Hard Day’s Night (1964) is so many things – joyous, silly, endearing, and riotously funny, to name a few – that it’s easy to miss just how heart-stoppingly beautiful it is. I’m not kidding. There are images in this movie, which is shot through in glorious black and white, that are as mesmerizing as anything the movies have ever given us. To me, it’s most evident in the sequence where The Beatles, preparing for a live TV event (a la their Ed Sullivan Show performance), perform “And I Love Her” in the under-lit, empty TV theater. As Paul sings the melody, his youthful, boyish face is captured on distorted video monitors in the control room show, eventually dissolving into a silhouetted image of his real face. The effect is hypnotic, almost otherworldly, like all of time has frozen just so Paul can sing his song. Time didn’t freeze, of course, and the beauty of that sequence, and of A Hard Day’s Night, would eventually give way to the tumult of the ‘60s. Eventually, the Beatles would break up. But what they created with this film was some kind of magic, and no matter how many times you watch it, that magic is still there.
“But you damned idiot, war starts at midnight!”
I can’t think of a happier time in my movie-watching life than when I first found Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. It was late – I was around 26. The film was Black Narcissus and, frankly speaking, it blew my mind. A weird and transfixing story of sexual repression in a Himalayan convent shot in glorious British Technicolor (in 1948!), it was unlike anything I had seen before, and when it was over I knew I had to devour every film of theirs I could get my hands on. Once I did, I knew I was hooked for life. There are undoubtedly more celebrated British directors (David Lean) and more popular ones with the masses (Hitchcock), but when it comes down to it, for me, few directors’ films inspire more giddy love for cinema than those of the Archers.