Quadrophenia (1979) movie poster

(1979) dir. Franc Roddam
viewed: 11/27/08

I first saw Quadrophenia back in 1985, as it was already a cult film.  My friends at the time knew that it was popular with the “modern” Mods, which I had no idea what that was.  I had still yet to discover The Jam.  Also, given a brief appearance by Sting from the Police, I didn’t have a lot to get into.  I was not a fan of The Who and this movie was The Who up the yin-yang.  So, I didn’t remember it fondly.

As I was moving through my 1980’s film thing, especially the influence of the music scene, I rethought this and decided to queue it up.  Not only did I understand its context more, now I get it pretty well.  And I had the benefit of an English friend to help articulate the film’s historical accuracy.

So, the film is based on a 1973 album by The Who, which was another “rock opera” with a whole complex narrative to which specific songs elaborated the emotion of.  But the story is set in 1963 Britain, with the “original” Mods, a popular style and identity that grew in the youth culture at the time.  The English class identity is something quite more pronounced than in most of America and the significance of this youth movement was more a working class rebellion against everything out of boredom and angst.

The film follows Phil Daniels as Jimmy, the “quadropheniac” kid, coming of age amidst the music, the fights, the drugs and booze, the lost generation feeling.  The thing is, he’s not particularly attractive or likeable.  Nor is most anyone in the film, though their not necessarily reprehenisble, but it has an off-putting quality that helps give the film a sense of verity or realism.

So, these Mods headed down to Brighton, an aging Victorian seaside town, to rumble (though the English don’t rumble) with the leather-clad Rockers who I guess were the old dudes who hadn’t caught up with the change in culture or music.  And they brawled and rioted.  And this is a factual setting for this narrative.

The film is actually quite good overall, I would say, with some deft characterization, some well-crafted scenes, and a strong sense of time and place.  Still, The Who.  The combination of the culminating scene with the song “Love, Reign o’er Me” was a killer.  The breadth of emotion that is sought for, strived for, and deeply overdone makes me want to retch.

The other thing about this movie is it’s scooter porn.  I’m not a big scooter guy, but even I can see these crazy machines these guys ride are wacky and cool and totally tricked-out.  So, my feelings are mostly positive, but still hung up on The Who.

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