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QUADROPHENIA, 1979
Movie Review

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QUADROPHENIA POSTERQUADROPHENIA, 1979
Movie Reviews

Directed by:Franc Roddam

Starring Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone, Sting, Leslie Ash, Garry Cooper, Toyah Willcox
Review by Christopher Upton


SYNOPSIS:

London in 1965, as a youth you have to be a member of one of two gangs; Mods or Rockers. Jimmy is a Mod and him and his friends spend their time going to house parties, taking drugs and causing as much mayhem as possible. One weekend they take a trip to Brighton to meet up with their sworn enemies, the Rockers.

NOMINATED FOR 4 OSCARS Ė Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume and Writing

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REVIEW:

This was the second, but probably not as well remembered, musical created by rock band The Who, but for this the band completely removed themselves from the screen, just providing the music. The stars here were a bunch of fresh-faced young actors who had barely cut their acting teeth when they performed here. You wouldnít know it as the performances are exceptional; capturing anger, selfishness, abandon and joy with such conviction you canít help but believe in everything they do.

Jimmy (Phil Daniels) doesnít want to be like everyone else, thatís why heís a Mod. This contradictory statement is what lies at the core of Quadrophenia. Jimmy wants to be different from everyone else, a rebel and a loner. At the same time however, he wants to be accepted and part of something like everyone else. His mixed up feelings end up isolating him from his friends who, rather than being a Mod in a search for belonging, are doing it for a laugh.

Then comes the fateful trip to Brighton to meet up with the Rockers over the bank holiday. Taken straight from the pages of newspapers from the Sixties the two gangs of teens meet up to smash as much sense out of their opponents as is possible. This destruction of the seaside town and the solidarity showcased by the Mods as they smash it up with the rockers is exactly what Jimmy has been looking for; not only that but he final gets the girl, even if it is just an alley behind a shop.

Once the weekend is over, and the teens have been sentenced, normality resumes for most and Jimmy just canít handle it. Chucking his job he struggles find the sort of happiness he had in Brighton and the camaraderie that has now dissipated.

The film was made many years after all the Mods Vs. Rockers violence had died down and The Whoís intent wasnít to glamourise the violence of the time but to expose the inherent futility in all of it. In all honesty teenagers will always group together as adolescence is a difficult time and the friendships that you forge are often just a way of getting through it. The film has a lot in common with the fifties teen exploitation films such as The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause, this time with a scruffy teen named Jimmy rather than the Hollywood heartthrobs of James Dean and Marlon Brando.

All those stories focussed on lost teenage souls, living their lives to dangerous excesses just to escape the boredom of having to live normally. In this film the drugs, partying and violence are a bigger thrill for Jimmy than the possibility of a secure life could ever be. Unlike his parents from the generation before him, his dreams extend beyond the hope of getting a family and a mortgage. This is something that a lot of people take for granted now, the options to move away and explore different avenues, but before these freedoms arrived there was mainly constriction. The desperate urge to kick back, often violently, against this is something that Phil Daniels managed to convey well in what is probably his greatest role.

Phil Daniels had done a lot of TV work before he took on the starring role of Jimmy, and surprisingly he seemed to go back to it after this. Itís even stranger when you know that he starred in this and his other big work at the that time, Scum, with Ray Winstone who then carved out an impressive career in Hollywood. Jimmy is a tour de force performance, not in the way that he manages to run through an impressive range of emotions- like most teenagers thereís only one real emotion- but with the conviction he conveys when faced with the prospect of being trapped by the nine to five world. In fact his anger never really lets up, getting more and more pent up in his aggressive state as the music echoes his feelings. Again one of the main comparisons that can be made with this film and itís fifties contemporaries is its use of music.

The fact that this film is a musical sneaks up on you. The fact that none of the cast burst into song means that it probably isnít a musical in the strictest senses, but The Whoís music is laced so deeply throughout to the point where there arenít really any moments of silence and you never notice. The music is very evocative and adds a power to a lot of the more solitary scenes. It takes on as much of a journey as Jimmy does, travelling from the band trying to sound like their earlier selves with The Real Me, up until the experimental epic of Love Reign Oíer Me.

The great use of music elevates this from simply being a paean to the teenage kicks of the sixties. Instead it becomes a timeless picture of the inevitable struggle against conformity. Fortunately, rather than doing this in a pretentious way it does in a realistic way making it fun to go along for the ride with the scooter riding delinquents.

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QUADROPHENIA


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