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Quadrophenia

Director: Franc Roddam


Re-released in a new print (complete with an improved Dolby soundtrack) to coincide with a renewal of interest in composer Pete Townshend and the Who, Quadrophenia is one of the best ever British youth movies. Set in 1964, when hip young things known as mods did battle with greasy rockers, Franc Roddam’s film captures not only a time and place to perfection, but also the energy, frustration and dreams of its youthful protagonists. In the best role of his career, Phil Daniels plays Jimmy, a London teenager who seeks a sense of identity and some excitement with the image-conscious mods. But the familiar rituals of pill-popping, partying and romancing are not quite sufficient to obliterate the zero prospects of a dead-end job. The inevitable release of pressure comes in the form of a legendary Brighton beach battle between rival gangs of mods and rockers.
One of the strengths of Quadrophenia is that it manages to combine the qualities of British social realism with the more mythic and subversive tendencies of the American youth movie. Thus, despite its close attention to the details of a specifically English context, Roddam’s film manages to conjure up something similar to the confusion and angst that surrounded James Dean and his pals in the classic Rebel Without a Cause. Needless ot say, Quadrophenia is not exactly free of silly moralising, but there is also a palpable sense of pain and danger in Daniel’s Jimmy, who seems ready to explode at any moment and comes literally to the edge of self-destruction in the film’s most memorable scene.
Overall, this is a very welcome revival for all kinds of reasons. Apart form the thunderous music score, there is some very striking cinematography by Brian Tufano, who has personally supervised the production of the splendid new prints. And of course there is Sting, who is sure to raise a laugh as the super-mod whose iconic status is somewhat at odds with his day job as a bellhop. In short, this is something of a British classic.

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