Quadrophenia

Pete Townshend's Birthday & the 55th anniversary of the Battle of Brighton Beach (Mods vs Rockers, May 18/19, 1964!)

The Who's 1973 double album Quadrophenia represented the pinnacle of the English rock band's outsized ambition, both as musicians and storytellers. Guitarist and creative spearhead Pete Townshend's writing style lent itself naturally and consistently to the visual realm, early on painting small-scale portraits before graduating into expansive, cross-media narratives such as Tommy. Quadrophenia, however, represented something different for the group. The material would prove inherently cinematic, and it wasn't long before Townshend's story of a young Mod's growing disillusion with society's strictures, his youth movement's isolationist tendencies, and love's inevitable defeats would be turned into a feature film.

Franc Roddam's 1979 realization of Quadrophenia was an unexpectedly dark and pessimistic work, yet it remains one of the most honest and detailed documents of the mid-'60s mod subculture in existence. Carrying the admitted influence of contemporaries Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, Quadrophenia evidences a similar fascination with the young and the working class, a universal milieu given a very British rendering by Roddam and his eye for period design and sociological nuance.

Quadrophenia remains unusually fresh and applicable even today. As Jimmy flits between speed-addled all-nighters, raging scooter misadventures, and desperate declarations of infatuation, society and the media look on to the attendant clash between his suavely outfitted Mods and the leather-clad rockers with a uneasy fascination. As tensions mount, so too does Jimmy's life careen out of his control with an uncontainable and passionate sense of turmoil, which would soon fuel the similarly cloistered punk movement.

Quadrophenia the film is a lovely microcosm of both the band and Roddam's artistic vision, one that does justice to both the Who's grandest artistic statement and to a subculture that helped spawn a band that continues to inspire to this day. - Jordan Cronk, Slant

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