A digitally restored 4K version of Richard Lester‘s A Hard Day’s Night is screening at 6:30 pm on Saturday, 4.12, at the TCM Classic Film Festival. The screening is basically a promotion for Criterion’s upcoming Bluray (due on 6.24) of this 1964 black-and-white film, which Andrew Sarris once called “the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals.” I’m presuming that Criterion’s version, derived straight from the original negative and “approved” by Lester, will beat the pants off the Alliance 1080i Bluray that came out October 2009. Sharper detail, richer blacks, more dynamic sound, etc. And yet there’s a problem. The Criterion guys have decided to cleaver this beloved Beatles pic down to a 1.75:1 aspect ratio for no aesthetically justifiable reason. I’m told that the “leaders” say 1.75 but the eff that noise. The ’09 Alliance Bluray and the 2002 Miramax DVD went with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, which conformed to the general British standard of the time. Criterion itself masked Lindsay Anderson‘s This Sporting Life (’63) at 1.66 for their DVD; ditto John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday (’71). There can never be a justification for an arbitrary decision to eliminate perfectly good visual information, as the Criterion guys have done with A Hard Day’s Night. It’s not a criminal offense (very few will notice or care) but it’s definitely not cool in the eyes of the Movie Godz. Cleavering the tops and bottoms of classic films is an eternal no-no. When in doubt always refer to Hollywood Elsewhere’s aspect-ratio motto, to wit: More height is always right. Because Criterion has declined to respect this simple, elegant rule, I’m giving a preemptive thumbs down to this all-new A Hard Day’s Night, although I’m sure it’ll look and sound great in almost every other respect.