Saturday, February 7, 2009

"quadrophenia" movie review

after the blues from the disappointing finish of "the loneliness of the long distance runner," watching "quadrophenia" is the perfect antidote. it took a while for netflix to send it out - tagged with "long wait" when you add it to your queue (a wonderfully ironic word choice for this quintessentially british youth a bay flick). it was a seminal film from my youth; but i wondered if, almost 30 years removed, it would still have the same impact today.

there is a big difference between watching "quadrophenia" as a 17 year old high school student in a theatre with a bunch of friends, than kicking back with the same film it in your living room as a 46 year old (even w/the benefit of high def.) - ha. amazingly, it lost none of it's impact with the passage of time. while i no longer identify with the characters like i once did - way to much growing up (unfortunately) took place for that, the film still stands up! remarkably, it's one of the few films sporting a 100% positive rating at rotten tomatoes!

without treating this as a spoiler, the film comes full circle from the opening sequence where jimmy is seen walking back from the cliff! it tells a story of middle-class british youth in the 60's (here, 1964) - in particular the clash between the mods and rockers - thru the thoroughly disaffected and alienated jimmy. his particular ups and downs during the film are rivetingly played by phil daniels. his haunting, and at times demonically possessed, portrait is intense.

jimmy and his friends (the mods) ride wildly on vespa (scooters), consume massive quantities of amphetamines ("blues"), love american rhythm and blues, and are decidedly anti-authority (and when not rebelling against authority, fighting with the rockers). when this film was released, i don't remember any positive press - if anything it was panned for way too much cursing, sex, and violence! the perfect marketing tool for teenagers - ha.

a major story finds jimmy and his friends traveling to the seaside resort of brighton to relax and have fun over a long weekend. so too do the rockers. the climatic sequence with the mods marching through the streets of brighton, shouting "we are the mods," culminates with a widespread confrontation with the rockers (a riot) - which leaves brighton in tatters. the soundtrack was all "who" - but the proper song for this incredible sequence should've been "anarchy in the u.k." by the sex pistols!

in the midst of that rampage through the streets, jimmy finds himself in an alley hideaway with the girl of his dreams. even more remarkably, they take the time for a stand-up quickie! and, quite pleased with themselves, walk back out into the troubled streets where jimmy gets arrested. what else could explain the look of bliss on his face as he's driven to the police station in a paddy wagon - ha.

but jimmy's life fallens apart from that high point. the sequence spirals downward with a fine (no jail time), kicked out of his house by his mom, losing his job (as a runner in an ad agency), and - the last straw - the girl of his dreams blowing him off in favor of a friend - and drives jimmy to the proverbial (and literal, as we see) edge. here, in one of the best scenes of the entire film jimmy returns to brighton via the train - to the sounds of the who's "5:15" - and without words is positively demonic. this bit alone is worth watching the entire movie!

at brighton, the final shock is his discovery that "ace face" - the coolest of the very cool mods - is nothing more than a lowly hotel bell boy! fellow rock fans will quickly recognize ace face as pre-superstar days police member - none other than sting, himself! jimmy steals sting's scooter and, as they say, the past is prologue, rides it wildly along the cliffs. after briefly thinking it over, the scooter goes over - and we're left wondering "what happened to him" as the credits roll.

the film is a classic. it's 30th anniversary is this year - check it out!


ChickenUnderwear said...

Ah Quadrophenia... I wish I could remember where I saw it, who did I go with? I must of had a good time.

Sometimes when I run in the rain, and am all alone in the middle of Prospect Park I loudly sing "Love, Reign o'er Me".

When I got home and blew the dust off the LP and played the last song on side 4 I decided it sounded better in my head. There is a reason for CDs.

Thanks for the memory


rundangerously said...


didn't we go see this w/howie, phil and larry?!

ChickenUnderwear said...

Probably, but I was Quadrophrenic at the time


Anonymous said...

I probably haven't seen that movie in 25 years. The only thing I seem to recall about it is that rivaled Scarface for the sheer number of f-bombs dropped.

The album, however, has always resonated very strongly with me. I still think Who's Next is their best, but Quadrophenia is probably tied with Sell Out as my most listened-to Who album. I love those guys.