Fans of The Who primarily think of the impact that their music has had on their lives. What you might not remember as clearly are the movies that they produced from their albums. ‘Tommy’ came first but ‘Quadrophenia’ is the one people tend to forget about.
London in the mid 60s was populated by Mods and Rockers. The former are sensitive, arty types who dress up and go to clubs. The latter wear leather jackets and typically like more ‘rocking’ music. That’s not important. Jimmy (Phil Daniels) is filled with teen angst and loves to hang out with his friends and to ride his motorcycle.
Friction between the groups come to a head when all of London’s youth heads to Brighton.
Along the way, Jimmy grows up a little bit, finds some love, gets into some fights and has issues with his parents.
That’s about it.
First of all, ‘Tommy’ the movie was important to this examiner because it introduced the band to me. It was a weird, psychedelic journey that made little sense from a narrative standpoint. The songs were great and fun. That was the point. ‘Quadrophenia’ is much more of a traditional movie. Snippets of songs from the album drift in and out with contributions from other artists, as well. This is absolutely concerned with telling a story above highlighting the music.
The story, itself, is a basic one of youthful disenfranchisement but it differs by being from across the pond and a product of a different time. The ‘rockers’ vs ‘mods’ has a very ‘West Side Story’ feel to it, but that’s not a fatal flaw. After hearing the album and visualizing it, this story doesn’t seem quite as dark on screen.
Guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend wrote this album with a bit of an autobiographical viewpont. The ending is a head scratcher, but there you go.
Most of the kids are actually pretty good. Sting even makes an early and slightly memorable appearance. What does his character really do? Nothing really, but he’s Sting. Come on! Ray Winstone even gets some exposure.
Special features include: commentary, an interview with the Who’s ex-manager and engineer, on-set footage, photos and the cool Criterion booklet.
Of The Who’s movies, ‘Quadrophenia’ is the better one, but it’s the less memorable experience. If you like the band are are familiar with the album, seeing this will shed some new light on it and will give you some added perspective.
Rated R 117 minutes 1979