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The Mods and Rockers hit Brighton
Member Name: sunmeilan
Advantages: Phil Daniels is superb, fabulous background music
Disadvantages: Quality of the DVD isn't great, just one extra
Quadrophenia, the film, made in 1979, is based on The Who's rock opera album of the same name from 1973, and is partially written by Pete Townshend, the guitarist of The Who. Like the album, the film is based on the story of the real 'Second Battle of Hastings' riot in 1964, when the Mods and Rockers clashed, causing a 'moral panic' in which the media and much of middle-class Britain were horrified at the behaviour of their young people. [Anyone interested in finding out more should read the superb 'Folk Devils and Moral Panics' by Stanley Cohen - a truly fascinating, and suprisingly easy, read] Against this background, is set the story of Jimmy, growing up at a time when the days of rationing were far behind, but the promises of the future were not yet available to him.
The cast of this British film is made up of a long list of actors and actresses well-known in the UK today; so much so that I spent the first part of the film recognising faces and trying to place them. Phil Daniels (more recently of Eastenders fame) plays Jimmy, in what is a superb portrayal of youthful angst. Jimmy is a very angry young man; things aren't going the way he planned and he can't even get the girl he wants. Amazingly, because I've never really thought much of Daniels as an actor, he manages to carry the film virtually single-handedly, and most definitely gives a performance that I will remember for a long time. He starts off well, but ends even more strongly - there is no need for words to express the confusion he is feeling, it is written all over his face.
A very young Mark Wingett (The Bill and Eastenders) plays Jimmy's best friend Dave. He really looks the part of a Mod and, although the role is very secondary to that of Phil Daniels, his performance is also memorable - particularly for his violent outburst towards the end. There are a couple of other familiar faces from Eastenders - Kate Williams (who has recently played Libby's grandmother) is Jimmy's mother in this film, and does a marvellous job of being a vicious, screaming battle-axe. Then there is John Altman (Nick Cotton in Eastenders) who has a fairly minor role, but gets the chance of being remarkably gobby nevertheless!
Leslie Ash deserves a mention for her role as Steph - a very beautiful girl who proves to be not quite so beautiful on the inside. Ray Winstone plays an old schoolfriend of Jimmy's who happens to be a Rocker - he memorably manages to get beaten up twice, poor guy. Sting plays the head of the Mods, someone for whom Jimmy has a serious attack of hero worship. Other familiar faces include Michael Elphick, Toyah Willcox, Timothy Spall, Gary Holton and Phil Davis - with the exception of Elphick, who plays Jimmy's father, all look incredibly young, and all of them, without exception are spot on with their performances, however small the roles.
I found the backdrop to the story fascinating. Anyone who has studied criminology or sociology will have heard about this 'moral panic' that followed the riots between the Mods and the Rockers, and this was a fantastic opportunity to get a visual taste of what happened. Phil Daniels has apparently said that the acting during the riots was as realistic as it could get - he remembers punching and kicking the 'policemen' for all he was worth - and it really is completely convincing. I really appreciated the fact that the story is based on reality - it made it all the more entertaining and I enjoyed the reminder that rebellion wasn't invented by today's youth, even if they think it is!
Much of the setting is made up of various grubby bars and cafes where the Mods congregated. However, director Franc Roddam still took advantage of the beauty of the Brighton coast and surrounding areas. The opening shots of Jimmy wondering up towards the headland with the sunset in the background are really beautiful, and the ending, along the tops of some cliffs is equally eye-catching. I also loved shots of Jimmy down a Brighton alley, which comes to represent a happy memory for him. All very well done without being in the least bit pretentious. After all the anger and violence of the rest of the film, it is a real relief to have something restful to watch.
The music is truly superb. I am a big fan of The Who anyway, so it was a real treat to hear so much of their music. It doesn't overly dominate the film though; it really only comes to the fore when Jimmy is suffering. However, when it does, it matches Jimmy's actions and feelings perfectly - I had to keep reminding myself that it was the music that came first and the film was written for the music, rather than the other way around. There is a great selection of other music throughout the film, including James Brown, The Supremes, Manfred Mann and The Ronettes - it is rare that I notice soundtracks, but in this film it is very much part of the whole package.
This version of the DVD has just one special feature; a featurette, which consists of a series of stills and clips from the movie - set to The Who music. I was really disappointed by this - I thought that there would at least be a documentary about the riots. And the quality of the film is not brilliant, making it look older than it really is - there has obviously been little attempt to digitally remaster it. There is another version, which comes with a whole host of special features and has the digitally remastered version of the film. I think it is certainly worth looking out for the that - I still enjoyed the film, but would have preferred an enhanced copy.
I really don't have much to criticise with this film. It has a whole host of excellent British actors and actresses, and Phil Daniels gives a remarkable performance as an angst-ridden teen. It may not appeal to everyone though - it is quite depressing and certainly shows a side to life that some would prefer to avoid when it comes to entertainment. There is also a huge amount of swearing, drug-taking, violence and sex, so it thoroughly deserves the classification of 18. However, if you like The Who and don't mind the gritty topic, it is well worth a watch. Just make sure you get hold of the latest, and digitially enhanced, version of the DVD. Highly recommended.
This version of the DVD is available from play.com for £3.99. The special edition, complete with digitally enhanced film and extras, is available for £4.99.
Running time: 117 minutes
Summary: Fabulous British film