A film that captures an era of music and rival gangs of that time. The ending of the film, I'm sure adds to the already controversial edge to this film for it's time.
In bringing Quadrophenia to the big screen, the band and first-time director Franc Roddam took a completely different approach than they had for Tommy. Ken Russell had a deep-seated interest in opera and classical music: he treated the material as an opera which just happened to have been written by a rock band. The finished product was a divisive mixed bag: amidst some striking imagery and memorable characterisation, there was a lot of bad singing, over-indulgence and naff pomposity.
Quadrophenia is more like a coming-of-age film which documents the rise and fall of the original mods. Its storyline interweaves elements of the rock opera out of album order, and its soundtrack balances The Who with other mod favourites like The Kinks, The Ronettes and The Crystals. The film is around 40 minutes longer than the album even with several songs cut out, taking its time to set up the mods' aims, culture and modus operandi.
To understand the reasons for this approach, we have to consider the changing circumstances of the band. When Tommy was made, The Who were at the height of their power as a live group; they had both the money and the fame to be a little over-exuberant. Four years later, punk had moved in and swallowed up the younger generation, leaving The Who in a no-man's-land between circus-act obsolescence and risky reinvention. After the death of Keith Moon, the band lost some of its live firepower, so that even if they had wanted to recapture the old ground, they could no longer drown out their rivals.
Much of Quadrophenia is about The Who trying to justify their continued existence by examining the foundations of the culture which launched them. Just as The Who were (retrospectively) described as the original punk rock band, so there is an attempt to portray the mods as the direct predecessors of the punks. There is some similarity in their characterisation, as gangs of young people with a unique dress sense, who eschew all authority and are generally unpleasant to anyone outside their inner circle. Roddam even screen-tested Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten for the lead role, but he was dropped because no-one would insure him.
Despite this earnest desire to justify themselves, the approach of The Who's surviving members is decidedly hands-off. Unlike Tommy, the band do not appear in person, either as themselves or in character (for instance, Keith Moon playing Uncle Ernie with a worrying amount of relish). We are therefore spared the prospect of Pete Townshend et al playing themselves aged 21, in the manner of Mariah Carey's excremental Glitter. There are only two occasions in which we see the band: once on a poster of Pete Townshend next to Jimmy's bed, the other in an early TV performance from Ready, Steady, Go!.
This strange sense of modesty is further reflected in the soundtrack, which was overseen by bassist John Entwistle. In Quadrophenia the songs are mixed right down to serve as background, rather than being the driving force for the action. When 'My Generation' gets played at the house party, you quickly get the mods shouting over it until Roger Daltrey's delivery becomes totally lost. The film is emphasising the effect which this music had rather than the band that created it; we have to focus on Jimmy as a character rather than as a vessel for different aspects of the group.
Although this approach may disgruntle purists, the music in Quadrophenia is still of a high quality. Of the seventeen album tracks, ten survive in either their original form or with very slight alterations - for instance, the new bass part and more definitive ending of 'The Real Me', which plays out over the opening credits. The three original compositions which Townshend penned are also up to snuff: they may be more deliberately incidental, but they still feel like Who songs, and the oft-maligned Kenney Jones manages to at least partially replicate Keith Moon's drumming style.
Quadrophenia is a character study of a confused young man, who attaches himself to the mods as a means of identity, but starts to go to pieces when they desert him. Early on in the film he meets his childhood friend Kevin (a young Ray Winstone), who has just returned from a spell in the army. Jimmy has a warm bond with Kevin, but whenever his friends turn up he changes his tune and runs with the pack - right down to him fleeing the scene when Kevin is beaten up for being a rocker.
The central idea of Quadrophenia is that of youth-led revolution. The mods were the first genuinely post-war teenagers; having no real attachment to the world or values of their parents, they saw no reason to accept the old way of life. The scenes of the Brighton riots are edgy and visceral, showing the gang mentality of both mods and rockers, and the cluelessness of the police who simply don't know how to respond t to a generation that doesn't care. When the magistrate orders him to pay a fine, the Ace Face (played unconvincingly by Sting) responds by getting out his chequebook, causing the whole court to erupt with laughter.
But rather than simply glorify the mods, Quadrophenia highlights the dangers of identifying with such a culture too closely. Just as The Who only became truly successful after the mods died away, so Jimmy only gets to see 'the real me' when the scales have fallen from his eyes. Having been thrown out of home, jilted by Lesley Ash and his prized scooter wrecked by a lorry, he decides to return to Brighton. After a drug-fuelled train journey ("out of my brain on the 5:15"), he finds the mods gone and the Ace Face working as a bell boy at the hotel they smashed up. Alienated and depressed, Jimmy throws Ace's scooter off Beachy Head. The scooter, like the mods, is smashed beyond repair, while the fate of Jimmy remains unknown.
There are a number of flaws with Quadrophenia. Despite the impressive choreography during the riots, Franc Roddam's direction is not great - the choice of camera angles is rather jobbing and the sequence on the cliffs could have used a couple of big edits. The first hour feels padded out, taking too long to get to Brighton and dragging narratively: there are only so many parties, bars and cafes we need to visit to understand how mod culture works. One scene in particular, of Jimmy and his friends raiding a pharmacy, wanders rather too close to Animal House in its jokes about pills and condoms.
Like so many cult films, Quadrophenia is rough around the edges and approaches its subject matter in a manner which is not entirely successful. But as an examination of mod culture it manages to be comprehensive and genuine without totally falling in love with its subject, and it manages to do justice to the album, albeit in a roundabout way. Though Russell is by far the better director, this work had dated much better than Tommy, and it remains a highly influential work of 1970s cinema.
|------------------------------------------------------------|--------------|!"Yeah, you can't lamely quote the lyrics to an instrumental, so I just lamely put down a little sample of the tabs from the titular song off of this film's source material album of the same somewhat awkward sounding name. Oh no, I'm very well aware that the title to this film and the album upon which it's based are refering to quadraphonic sound, but come on, now you can't deny that this title is an "L" in the place of the "N" away from helping you in seeing why Pete Townshend was faced with accusation that he had a thing for kids. Well, in all fairness, the child pornography that he looking through for the purpose of "research that would help him in better understanding the enemy in his fight against child pornography" didn't help, but hey, I still like him, and besides, my dad though Townshend was gay sooner than a pedophile, so I guess no one else really cares either. Hey, if you ask me, I think that Townshend really was doing research, as he does indeed know the struggle of children, as reflect in the album "Quadrophenia", as well as this adaptation, or at least that's what was said by critics who were too dirt-old by the '70s, alone, to understand what kids were talking about. Shoot, I'm not much more credible, because I can't even begin to get the kids I hate and am not a child of the '60s or '70s, no matter how much I think I am in my own little adorably insane way. Hey, I'm crazy like Jimmy Cooper, so I guess I'm close enough to relating to this rock opera's protagonist, at least more than I am to relating to Tommy from The Who's (Wait, wouldn't the proper way to say it be, "The Whose"?) other big rock opera, what my not being deaf, blind, dumb (I have some friends who would say otherwise), or even as good-looking or as good a vocalist as Roger Daltrey "was" (Sorry, man, but no matter how much you try, in recent years, that vocal rasp and stiff chin are really starting to stick out, and not just literally), which I suppose is fitting, because as much as I had fun with "Tommy", this here is the better Who film, though most certainly not to where my "love reigns o'er it" (Put down your hippity-hoppy junk, kids, and listen to some real music to get it), thanks to quite a few shortcomings.
A film like this could have easily dragged its feet something fierce, and lord knows that I feared that this product was going to, so of course I am reasonably relieved to report that the final product isn't as slow as I feared, which isn't to say that this film's managing to evade relatively considerable slow spells lasts for very long, as the film, while rarely, if ever all-out boring, often dries up in atmosphere just enough to spark a degree of disengagement behind meanderings that can admittedly even be found on paper, without dry directorial execution. At about two hours, this film is hardly sprawling, and boasts a broad story concept whose execution could prove to be quite comfortable with a two-hour runtime, but just ends up thinning certain things out, and making up for lost time with excess filler that rather blandly pads things out, until the film is left dragging its feet even when you disregard the cold spots in atmosphere. If nothing else, all of the padding within this film's story structure sparks repetition, which is not so considerable that the film falls flat as near-monotonous, but is pretty much hard to deny, for the final product's often dragging along in circles gives you more than enough time to meditate upon just how thin this story concept is, at least in certain areas. Sure, there is more than a hint of meat on this film's bones, and enough of it for the final product to almost accel as rewarding on the whole, but what really undercuts this film's full potential is its crafting from a promising broad story concept a final story structure that offers only so much in the way of genuine plotting, which, upon finally getting around to arriving, is perhaps too familiar for its own good. The film doesn't necessarily feel all-out generic, probably because there's only so much plot to the final product, while truly generic films of this type are every bit as rich with conventions as they are of events, but there is enough conventionalism behind this film's storytelling to spark predictability. Even if you haven't listened to and somehow managed to fully piece together the story of this film's really good source material rock opera album of the same name, you'd be hard pressed to ignore that this film is heading toward predictable waters (By the ways, this story's non-ending doesn't work as well as it did on the album), and doing so rather aimlessly, meandering along either slowly or with loose and repetitious storytelling, if not both, and after a while, as you can imagine, your investment thins out too much to grasp onto the final product as the rewarding opus that it could have been, and would have been if it was more focused. Still, even with all of its shortcomings, this film ultimately carries on as fairly enjoyable, with enough engagement value to almost reward, and decidedly to keep you going, or at least deliver on rewarding musical aspects.
Now, the late Keith Moon and John Entwistle may have been great and all (Why'd you have to do that cocaine, John? You were almost 58 years old!), but The Who wasn't an all out phenomenal band, and yet, I would still consider myself something of a fan, as they were still very good, with more than a few fine diddies under their belt, particularly when it came to the rock opera concept album upon which this film is based, which isn't necessarily great, but told a reasonably intriguing story entertainingly, and helps in doing just that in this film adaptation, whose soundtrack, - which is rich with both Who classics and other delightful '60s pop tunes - to a certain degree, livens up both entertainment value and substance. Needless to say, this film isn't quite as defined by its musicality as "Tommy", but substance is colored up by lively tunes, as well as by striking visuals, because as dated as then-future early Danny Boyle cinematographer Brian Tufano's photographic efforts are in this film, it's not hard to miss the handsome moments in lensing, of which, there are many. Tufano's plays with coloring and lighting may not be crisply well-defined, but they have their share of lovely moments to compliment clever camera plays, and to break up a consistent degree of grit that is, in fact, intentional and itself effective as a compliment to the effectiveness of this film's story, whose value, to be honest, doesn't exactly need to be backed up by a rather distince visual style to be seen. This film's subject matter, even with its unique touches, is all but nothing new at all, yet it is still rather worthy, carrying potential for thematic and dramatic weight that is hardly as fulfilled as it should have been within this executions' meandering storytelling, but made just palpable enough by the moments within Dave Humphries's, Franc Roddam's, Martin Stellman's and Pete Townshend's script, and Roddam's direction, that are genuinely effective. The moments in which the film particularly compels are limited, but they can be found by the patient, who will find the burden of waiting softened considerably a consistent degree of intrigue, which does anything from almost drag the final product out of underwhelmingness, to gracing a potentially unlikable protagonist with genuine compellingness that, in all fairness, wouldn't be what it is without the strength of the person who is directly behind our protagonist. Sure, there are plenty of decent performances throughout this film, but this is a young Phil Daniels' show, and he carries it, delivering on a kind of genuine charisma that sells you on the angst and ambition within the Jimmy Cooper, until, of course, reality come crashing down upon Cooper's head, and gives Daniels the opportunity to deliver on layers and emotional range that may not be as abundant as it probably would have been if Daniels had more material to work with, but really ice the cake when it comes to defining Townshend's symbolic character as a flawed young human. I wish I could say that the film delivers as much as Daniels, who, even then, isn't given enough material to be all that terribly outstanding, but what is done right in this film is hard to deny, powering a flawed and aimless opus just enough for it to sustain your attention more often than not.
Bottom line, a promising project is all too often undercut by the slow spells, repetitious padding and plot thinness that spark a kind of aimlessness in storytelling, and emphasize conventionalism within this subject matter, whose predictability helps in rendering the final product somewhat underwhelming, though not so much so that you're not still entertained by a strong soundtrack, aesthetically engaged by a generally striking visual style, and engaged enough by strong spells within leading man Phil Daniels' genuine performance, and within the execution of an often mishandled, but generally intriguing story concept that leaves "Quadrophenia" to stand as enjoyable and sometimes compelling "Who-pla", regardless of its many flaws.
2.75/5 - Decent
I ride a motor scooter, so I was very excited about seeing this film. This movie talks about the Mods versus Rockers riots in Britain in the 1960s. This is a hard movie to find as most video rental stores don't stock it and it's never on cable TV. Finally, I was able to check this out from my local library. ;-)
My first impression was, it's a little too much teenaged angst for me. Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels) is a British Mod, a kid who rides an Italian motor scooter, wears nice suits under old military parkas, listens to R&B music, and hangs out with his mates at coffee houses. Jimmy has the problem of being addicted to amphetamines which makes him agitated, angry, paranoid and frankly schizophrenic, taking on four personalities, Quadrophenia.
Jimmy meets up with an old high school friend, who went away and joined the Army, came back, and became a Rocker. Rockers ride motorcycles, wear leather jackets, listen to rock & roll music, and are the mortal enemy of the Mods. Ironically, the Mods and Rockers are two faces of the same coin, and their not getting along is some weird teenaged need to be exclusive from one another.
Jimmy also has the hots for a young blond beauty, named Stephanie (Leslie Ash) who is going with another Mod guy, but isn't against sneaking a peak back at Jimmy as he stares at them dancing. Although Jimmy has got a lot going for him, he's also just not happy with his life, his job, his folks, etc. He also comes off as not a very likable guy. And their scooter group/club is kind of bogus too. If someone's scooter brakes down, they just leave him there. A lot of this movie is where Jimmy is realizing what is really going on with people in his life versus what he had earlier thought was the way it was.
Another thing that I didn't particularly like about Quadrophenia is there's no closed captioning. It's hard to understand what they're talking about. The DVD does have the option of selecting a trivia setting which will put up text that might explain what their slang means or what sort of things they're doing or talking about.
I would have appreciated more scooters. How did they keep them running and where did they get all of those mirrors and lights? None of these scooters seemed to smoke 2-stroke exhaust, which is something that most scooter riders are used to and even savor. :-)
The things that I really liked about the film is that it talks about this whole Mods versus Rockers thing that never was a major part of the American psyche. I remember being asked if I was Surf or Soul (in other words do I listen to the Beach Boys or Aretha Franklin) which somehow would explain about where I was coming from as a teenager?
It also delves into the riots (the battle of the cults) of Brighton Beach. Here in the States there are Mods and Rockers events going on across the country, where scooter and motorcycle enthusiasts get together and just have some fun together, partying and going on group rides. In reality, it doesn't have anything to do with what went on in Britain.
By far the best part of this movie is the music with lots of classic rock & roll and rhythm & blues music from the 60s, not to mention a lot of the Who, but this is obviously an age thing that others might not share.
The DVD has enhanced the image and sound from the original 35mm original. There are some extras, such as an interview with Sting, comments by the director, that trivia text feature, and what I thought was interesting, a quick scooter view of the trip from London to Brighton.