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Cinevangelism Pilot: A Hard Day’s Night

Written by
Evan Robins
and
and
October 1, 2023
Cinevangelism Pilot: A Hard Day’s Night
Graphic by Evan Robins

Hello, and welcome to Cinevangelism. I’m sure for some of you it’s been a while. I’ve been at this bearing down on a year now, though I don’t know if I’ve ever properly prefaced any of it. I just kind of did it.

Sure, the first couple of these abominations included some blurb poking fun in as many words at the very notion of what I was trying to do in the first place, but I never actually explained Cinevangelism. I’ve come close, but then, perhaps that was always part of the joke. 

Now, however, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to re-introduce my body of work to a new cohort of readers bearing—as editor—considerably more responsibility than I did when first I mothered this particular piece of criticism. Bearing this in mind, then, permit me to (re)introduce myself.

My name is Evangeline Robins. Most people call me “Evan,” or “Ev,” or some derivative thereof. Some exceedingly cool people call me “Van,” or “Angel,” though they’re not in the majority, and I don’t demand anyone else do so. 

I write nominally about film and films, though, practically speaking, I write about me. This … this is where I do it.

From the very beginning of mine writing this particular column, I feel as though I’ve been engaged in the process of trying to find its origins.

In the first installment of Cinevangelism I attributed the ontology of this column to—in a roundabout manner—the 1974 Canuxploitation/slasher film Black Christmas. Without this film, I argued, a series of events which left a profound mark on my theretofore short life might never have transpired.

I’ve periodically made similar claims of movies running the gamut of a (former) very online white guy’s traditional taste, positioning each as implicitly responsible for contributing a fraction of the person I am today. 

However, as is often the case, this remains only half the story. While I am, as its creator, obviously instrumental in the form this column presently takes, Cinevangelism as we know it would be nothing without the vessel of its delivery in the form of Arthur. Thus the ghost of Marshall McLuhan strikes a silent tally in his list of battles won.

In such a circumstance, it typically behooves one to start at the beginning. 

Since we can’t start at the beginning, we might as well start with the Beatles.

While Arthur’s 1966 birthday means it itself predates the existence of 1974’s Black Christmas, strangely, this paper nonetheless owes its existence to a particular film. The film in question so happens to be A Hard Day’s Night.

If 2023 had Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, the 60s had Beatlemania. If Taylor Swift had Miss Americana (2020), the Beatles had A Hard Day’s Night (1964).

It so happens that at the height of Beatlemania a Trent University student and aspiring writer named Stephen Stohn had seen A Hard Day’s Night. Having seen the film, he recalled a moment wherein—when asked about it by a journalist—George Harrison quips that he calls his haircut “Arthur.” So it is that when, in 1966, Stephen Stohn and a few friends founded a newspaper, he called the newspaper Arthur.

This summer my colleagues and I caught up with Stephen Stohn. In the nearly sixty years since the creation of Arthur, he’s produced a number of successful television shows. He serves as current Chancellor of his alma mater, Trent University he’s acquired an Honorary Doctorate. He’s been inducted into the Order of Canada. 

It’s fun to attribute all this and more to the influence of a single movie.

A Hard Day’s Night was the first black & white film I ever saw. It was not, however, the first film I saw—far from it. If you’re curious as to what film bears that superlative title, I have written about it elsewhere, though even in the absence of it having been my first film, I still saw A Hard Day’s Night at a time so young as to be unable to ascribe it a precise date.

I saw the Beatle’s subsequent film, Help!, before I saw A Hard Day’s Night and—while today I prefer the latter—in my childhood preferred it to its predecessor because it was in colour, had better music, and a ski montage.

As is the case in many children born to parents of “Generation X,” I grew up listening to and more or less immersed in the Beatles. At a young age my father began what he termed a “Musical Education,” which involved his conferring unto me the bulk of his previously amassed iTunes library—or, at least those songs which he deemed to be “kid friendly.” 

So it was that I inherited a veritable cornucopia of music by the Kinks, Queen, any number of British punk bands of the 70s and onwards, and—of course—the Beatles. Like many Beatles fans in the early 2000s, my father owned the 1 album. I remember often listening to it on my second-hand 6th generation iPod Classic in the early hours of the morning. I liked the way it would, provided one listened to it all the way through, slowly transition from the simplistic pop songs of the band’s early career, and coalesce into more introspective fare.

The first album I ever owned outside of this digital library was a CD copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, likewise given to me by my father upon a Christmas of my youth. On boxing day he copied the album to my iPod. I used to listen to it on the drive to the ski hill where I spent many a winter weekend of my childhood.

One has to understand that this was not a nice ski hill. One would not charitably call it a “resort.” It was a parking lot at the base of a hill in Wakefield, Quebec, slightly taller than the surrounding hills in Wakefield Quebec. The chair lifts were all second-hand and the lefties and instructors alike smelled of a particular noxious strain of marijuana

In retrospect, I wonder if giving a child an album so potently laden with drug references might not have been somewhat imprudent on his part. I listened to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” more times than I could feasibly count; when Lenon and McCarthy invited me to picture myself on a boat, on a river, I needn’t have been asked twice.

I think that probably shows through in my present musical taste. Upon wrestling myself from my emo phase I gravitated with immediacy towards bands whose influences included the Beatles. Nirvana is hardly a novel band for a high-schooler to enjoy, though I complemented Kurt Cobain’s solo work with a proclivity for the lo-fi offerings of bands with tasteful names like “Crywank” and “teen suicide.”

In the intervening years I’ve given up skiing, and I’ve more or less given up the Beatles—neither out of disinterest so much as a budding interest in other things. Still, just as Arthur owes much, if not all, of herself to the Beatles in some nebulous form or fashion, I too feel a small part of my eternal soul indebted to the four lads from Liverpool. 

For those of you who’ve never read one of these so far, understand that’s about as good as you’ll get in terms of endorsement. A Hard Day’s Night is good. You should watch it.

Go paint your own memories around that film as opposed to reading my inscrutable in the hopes of finding objective truths about it. Films are meant to be enjoyed, not rated; it’s for this very reason that I eschew any notion of a standardized ranking system. 

If you want a number score and a snippy comment, go follow me on Letterboxd or something. In the absence of doing that, permit me to say; it’s good to be home.

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