Thursday, 5 August 2010

QUADROPHENIA (1979) - 3 1/2 STARS

"The Year Was 1964, and The Battle Was Just Beginning!"

 Although many of us associate The Who as a major band who have made a massive difference with rock music, their influence on film proved key with the success of their musical drama TOMMY (1975) showing they could produce good films as well. Assisted by future Auf Wiedersehen Pet writer Franc Roddam, the group became involved with making the gritty social drama QUADROPHENIA in 1979 and it would seem once again they achieved a cult following with a film dealing with social struggles and independence. One could look at it as a British version of the American classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1956), which also set up the boundary of one young man struggle with 9 to 5 life. Cockney actor Phil Daniels plays that frustrated and gawky-looking character in the shape of Jimmy, who wants to break out of this system whilst coping in working class 1960's Britain. The rise of the punk generation is clearly influenced on the film and interconnects with the rock generation backed up by The Who's contribution to the film (their album numbers) and Jimmy lives his life to the full when socializing with his friends including Phil Davis and John Altman (Nasty Nick Cotton from Eastenders). His home situation is frustrating with his parents (Kate Williams and Michael Elphick) failing to understand his motive in life, his job is dull despite earning good money and he is impatient with romance when pursuing shop worker Steph (Leslie Ash). The social setting for Jimmy is helped by his friends who are part of a group known as the Mods who seek to enjoy life through their passion for rock music, drugs and their motorbikes.


Jimmy especially loves his bike and wants to live free, and uses it to gain authority with the group as well as to impress Steph. The group also show their support for each other whenever one is placed in trouble such as the scene where one character whose motorbike has broken down is attacked by a group of Rockers led by a young Ray Winstone (a friend of Jimmy's) and Gary Holton (Wayne from Auf Wiedersehen Pet), but leads to the group showing their brutal vengeance. However Jimmy and the Mods know that the place to show their fighting power is in Brighton where they intend to party and cause trouble with rival gangs including the Rockers and others who drive down from different parts of the country. That is exactly what happens and following a massive brawl on the beach which leads to riot police being called in, Jimmy ends up being arrested (just after having sex in an alleyway with Steph) and becomes fascinated by blond haired rebel Ace Face played by rock star Sting, who Jimmy idolizes as the good-looking top Mod. However Jimmy's return to his town only adds to his struggles of wanting to get out of it all and this provides the backdrop towards the film's ending where things are going wrong for him in most departments and he decides to make a return to Brighton to try and think about his next step in life. One is left slightly confused by the ending until you realise that it's a story being told after that final moment from the beginning but this nonetheless decides the outcome of what Jimmy's life has got to look forward to next.


It is ironic to find that director Franc Roddam's best material came through this film and Auf Wiedersehen Pet (1983-2004) but yet is now writing for cooking show Masterchef. However he did produce a crucial cult film which appeals to many fans through it brilliant musical soundtrack using songs from Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Chiffons and of course The Who themselves. The album obviously makes its impact with setting up the scenes that interlink with Jimmy's dogged personality. Some people though probably could see themselves through Jimmy who is played bitterly well by Daniels allowing us to enjoy his character though finding ourselves questioning his motives particularly his paranoia about Steph. Leslie Ash also demonstrated a key dramatic breakthrough role as her, using her charm to invite Jimmy to pursue her and the romantic chemistry between the pair proves key in the Brighton riot scenes though she loses her respect from Jimmy and us, the audience, in the final act. Sting himself gives charisma as Ace in a leadership manner without speaking too much but the home truth about his character leaves Jimmy even more exposed while other British actors including Ray Winstone, Phil Davies, Michael Elphick and Timothy Spall all add extra support to a superb and mostly breakthrough cast. The 1960s is shot well and the script does the job well though the final act does drag towards the film's ending and as mentioned before Jimmy sometimes gains our sympathy but then loses it through a dogged personality and random acts of anger. The film's story overall proves to Jimmy that life cannot be all parties, cheap thrills and gang fights and that he is one of the world's great "there must be more to life than this" merchants - though he is right, he needs to be brighter, better educated or better looking to have it. As one of the songs from The Who would state for Jimmy's step in life he would have to be "Anyway, anyhow, anywhere"!

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