My "memories" of Quadrophenia are by association only. I had never seen the
movie until this Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, but
I had been aware of it - perhaps excessively so - thanks to the
neo-Mods of my teenage years. This was in the early 1990s, and although
it would be easy enough to label these neo-Mods as misguided poseurs
(which they most certainly were), it was somewhat surprising to find
that the "real" Mods as portrayed in the movie are just as misguided
and inauthentic. Quadrophenia is about the emptiness of the crowd, the conformity
of non-conformity, and the dead-ends at the furthest reaches of a subculture.
The Who produced Quadrophenia, and in a move that would seem to attest to some
measure of creative integrity, gave the job of writing and directing
the movie to film professionals. Although their 1973 double album is
the film's inspiration, the screenplay diverges from the album's
story. In the film, Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels) is a mailroom clerk
at an advertising firm whose bottomless angst is released at parties
and concerts frequented by his Mod friends. There is great enmity between
the Mods and the Rockers, who style themselves after Marlon Brandon
in The Wild One. (The Mods ride scooters and the Rockers ride motorcycles;
the Mods wear Army-green parkas and the Rockers wear leather jackets.)
Jimmy pursues the angelic blonde Steph (Leslie Ash), while the bleached
pixie-ish Monkey (Toyah Willcox) nips at his heels.
Quadrophenia is really about Jimmy's growing sense of dislocation
both with and without the Mods. Ultimately, Jimmy is forced to reckon
with himself when he discovers he cannot simply toss his lot in with
the Mods. Late in the film, Jimmy finds that his friends are all implicitly
dependent upon the establishment (in the form of regular, square jobs)
for their livelihoods and sense of identity. This frees Jimmy, although
he's not happy about it. He had truly believed, though uncritically,
in the Mods.
Jimmy's reckless indulgence in Mod culture is energetically
shot by director Franc Roddam and director of photography Brian Tufano,
both of whom participated in the creation of this Criterion release.
The camerawork is largely handheld, but captures action with a depth
of focus that makes the image immersive without limiting perspective.
The film's gritty but spacious photography is one of its best features.
The use of The Who's music, as well as that of other
bands, aids the story without dominating it. In other words, Quadrophenia is, far from being a musical, a straightforward,
fully-imagined narrative, and the music is only prominent enough to
support the idea that the Mod culture was, in part, defined by the music
preferred by its members. Although music from the Quadrophenia album is featured on the soundtrack, so is other
music of the era - another sign that the band's desire was to recreate
an era and tell a story about a specific character (Jimmy), and not
to serve up a promotional tool for the band. It's a movie driven by
the idea that "belonging" is something that can only exist within
one's own skin, and that subcultures are interested not in the souls
of their members but in the external symbols embodied by their membership.
Image and Sound
The film has been restored by Criterion and the image presented here
(1.85:1) retains a grainy film-like look and the drab color palette
envisioned by the filmmakers, while maintaining excellent contrast and
a vivid sharpness. The two-channel stereo soundtrack is perfectly adequate
and clear, but the newly-created 5.1 DTS-HD MA track (with the band's
participation) is stunningly well-separated and mixed. It serves the
music particularly well, but dialogue and effects are fully integrated
into the new track. An excellent example of a 2.0 to 5.1 conversion.
A fantastic selection of features illuminates the history behind
the film, as well as its recent restoration:
by director Franc Roddam and director of photography Brian Tufano: The two participants seem to have been recorded separately,
with their comments edited together. The track contains a wealth of
information about all aspects of the production, as well as the cultural
history behind the story.
from "Talking Pictures" (26:07): This excerpt from a BBC talk show was originally
aired just prior to the film's release and features interviews with
Roddam, Roger Daltry, and Sting, who plays Ace Face in the movie.
from "Sept jours du monde" (8:19): From 1964, this excerpt from a French news magazine
discusses the Mods and Rockers strife then current in England.
from "Seize millions de jeunes" (34:31): This 1965 French television program documents
The Who's rise to fame.
with Bill Curbishley (13:42): New interview with longtime manager of
The Who and Quadrophenia's co-producer.
with Bob Pridden (7:50): New interview with The Who's longtime sound
engineer, who helped create the film's new 5.1 soundtrack.
A very well-made film that investigates the dark side
of being a "joiner" and the youthful struggle to find an authentic
holds up extremely well. Excellent technical details and interesting
bonus content add much to this essential release. Highly recommended.
Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.