It’s easy enough to take The Beatles for granted: Oh, them. Of course. I’ve heard it all. Hey Jude. Help. Let It Be. Here Comes the Sun. Sure. They’re great. Whatever. Part of the reason one does this so easily is that their music is engrained within many listeners’ ideas of what constitutes good music, whether the listeners know it or not. We compare every soulful ballad with "Hey Jude." We compare every punk anthem, believe it or not with "Revolution." And, as time passes, it begin to seem as if this is not by accident: we become ever more aware of the ways the band shaped its image with the express purpose of permeating the music of an era, of making themselves into legends. This is no less true of such great Beatles films as Yellow Submarine, Help!, or A Hard Day’s Night; they set a high bar for the films of their type that followed, such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Tommy, and it’s not clear that these films have ever measured up. In his most recent video essay for Fandor, Kevin B. Lee uses cinemetrics, a technique he’s used before, to better understand the way the opening sequence of A Hard Day’s Night works; is it true that the opener shows the band seemingly at war with an ocean of fans, or is something else going on? Lee uses frames (labeled cleverly as "Beatle Cam," "Paul Cam," or "Fan Cam") to show the screen time given to all of the different players in the sequence–and in so doing, he teaches us something about the way the film is put together. While it might seem as if the struggle between the band and its admirers is perpetual, in fact the fans take up a fraction of the screen time the band takes up; the worshippers’ presence here is slight but powerful. In examining the film this way, Lee gives us a very significant insight into the way the band constructed the larger-than-life, eternal impression it made on fans worldwide.
Watch: A Video Essay That Breaks Down the Beatles Film ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ Shot By Shot