Forum / 'Quadrophenia'

  • Angelcity1.thumb
    Chris Okum
    Sep 01, 04:36pm

    The second cinematic literalization of a Who concept album to be produced and released during the 1970s, 'Quadrophenia' is said to have been directed by Franc Roddam, but based on the barely there staging of scenes, the inconsistency of the performances, and the grafting of certain Townsend compositions onto images that neither butt up against or complement said tunes, it would appear that the story of The Mods v. The Rockers was directed by no one in particular. Phil Daniels gives a proto-Tim Roth performance, all gnashed teeth and wild eyes, but mostly he just appears to be jittery, petulant and clenched, sometimes all at once, and if you were to find out that Daniels was also popping the Blue Dexamyl pills his character so desperately covets, well, then, it shouldn't really come as a surprise, now should it? If the point of the movie was to provide a kind of ethnographic study of this particular subculture and the meaning of its style, then it only partially succeeds. But let's be honest here: 'Quadrophenia' is just a vehicle for the music of the Who, a way to make corporeal the ephemeral nature of Townsend's teenage fever dreams, and on that level it succeeds in much the same way Ken Russell's gloriously vulgar 'Tommy' did, in fits and starts, with a random image here and there (e.g. the ubiquitous [for the late 1970s, at least] Sting holding court on a dance floor with moves that looked like they were nicked from a Kraftwerk performance, shot from slightly below, giving him what he certainly always wanted, i.e., the aura of King Punk), with nuggets of improvised behavior (all of it stemming from Daniels, who seems to be the only person in the picture who's committed [Ray Winstone is thoroughly wasted as one of Daniel's old school chums turned dreaded rival Rocker) being chucked from odd angles (the way Daniels, at a house party, reacts to opened door after opened door revealing one humping couple after another, is pretty priceless and kind of in-the-moment). The movie ends with its most striking and symbolically loaded image, the suicide of a priceless, gussied-up Lambretta scooter, its chrome body smashed against the rocks at the white cliffs of Dover, and it seems fitting that only once we're done with 'Quadrophenia' that it really feels like it's just about to begin.

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