A Hard’ Day’s Reich


A very  weird thing. In A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, Paul McCartney is filmed with a camera hung from a rope from the stage roof, so that the camera can circle him 360, more or less smoothly — it’s basically a hand-held shot, but the rope adds a degree of stability. And this is a shot invented by Leni Riefenstahl for TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.

In the opening credits, one could reach for some connection between the waving hand gliding across the screaming fans, with the way Riefenstahl films Hitler’s outstretched salute from a moving vehicle, a disembodied hand flying over the heads of the volk.


The fab four’s departure by helicopter at the end, by this logic, reads like an inversion of TRIUMPH’s opening, in which the Fuehrer descends from the skies.

I’m sure there was another connection which struck me but I can’t recall it. I don’t remember a speeded-up sequence of the Fuehrer mucking about in a field. Though John Lennon does attempt some garbled German in the bath (“Heinrich! Headphones! Help!”)

I don’t think too much should be made of any of this. Since Lester and his team were making a conscientious effort to keep their film as light as possible, cribbing from Leni doesn’t seem an appropriate technique. She may be many things, but light isn’t one. And I think the (slight) similarities are not much to do with David Bowie’s theory (“This ain’t rock and roll, this is genocide!”) that there’s something dark and fascistic in rock. See Peter Watkin’s PRIVILEGE, which clones the floating hand shot exactly and pointedly, for that view.

Lester’s approach was to try to be useful — it’s all practical problem-solving, according to him: it’s just because his mind works differently from anyone else’s, his solutions are not those many others would choose. Riefenstahl said that her job was to make Hitler look good, though she denied this had any political meaning (!) — Lester was hired to make the Beatles look good. How can we make a single person performing seem dynamic and interesting when they are stationary> The moving camera is a way of tricking the eye into looking at something for longer than it would normally be satisfied to do.

Right — announcement time — let’s do THE KNACK Film Club on Friday 7th. If you’re able to get the film watched before then, or if you’ve seen it and have strong memories of it, we can all have A Heated Debate on that day. I’ll try to serve up some mini-observations along the way and suggest some possible points of discussion.

12 Responses to “A Hard’ Day’s Reich”

  1. Iggy Pop saw the danger.

  2. Well, Pop and Bowie were hanging out together quite a bit.

    Hitler did inspire bouts of breast-baring hysteria among his female fans which bear some comparison with Beatlemania. But in such instances it matters very much WHAT and WHO the fans are getting excited about…

  3. David Cross and Bob Odenkirk noticed this first.

    “Slackers are worse than flappers, hippies and the Nazis combined.”

    “Flappers gave us jazz, the hippies had those fat watch-bands, and the Nazis wrote that song ‘8 Days a Week'”.

  4. Wow. His penultimate film.

    I recall a sketch by, I think, Victor Lewis-Smith about the love affair of Jane and Bertrand Russell, ending with Ken coming on and saying, “Some say I inherited my genius from my father, but I think I favour my mother.” Pull bck to reveal Ken wearing enormous false bosoms.

    Now, you wouldn’t see Antonioni doing that.

  5. I certainly don’t mind watching “A Hard Day’s Night” again (I think I’ve probably seen it maybe once a year since the late ’90s) but I’ve not been able to stomach “Triumph of the Will” yet if that’s needed for comparison. Suppose I should just get it out of the way.

  6. I don’t know if it;s a film anybody needs to see. You could see a few highlights and get the general idea.

    Something like Birth of a Nation, which is more purely monstrous, needs to be seen in it’s entirety to be believed. The Riefenstahl is dull by comparison — though I’ve never seen a very good print.

  7. I’ve only seen the last half-hour of “Birth of a Nation”. It was a memorable experience to be sure, watching a master of parallel editing apply his considerable talent to making us root for the KKK to ride in and save the day. I want to shower just thinking about it.

  8. The WORSE stuff — if you can credit it — is Griffith’s reimagining of the reconstruction of the South, which is just venomous. Having the KKK as heroes is noxious enough, but how he JUSTIFIES it… brrr…

  9. Racism is as American as apple pie.

  10. It’s interesting to compare America, where racial prejudice is inherently part of the process of the country’s foundation, in direct opposition to the stated principles of the country, with Britain, an insular society which is founded on a belief in its own supremacy which is no longer remotely credible. Result: national cognitive dissonance!

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