Looking for some essential films to watch this May long weekend? Might I suggest to you The Who’s 1979 film Quadrophenia directed by Franc Roddam.
Quadrophenia is easily one of my favourite films. I’ve owned it on VHS, DVD and most recently the excellent Criterion version on Blu-ray. My fascination with Mods and Brighton really began with this film when I first viewed it as a teenager, and continues to this day.
The Who’s classic rock opera Quadrophenia was the basis for this invigorating coming-of-age movie and depiction of the defiant, drug-fueled mod subculture of early 1960s London. Our antihero is Jimmy (Phil Daniels), a teenager dissatisfied with family, work, and love. He spends his time knocking around with his clothes-obsessed, pill-popping, scooter-driving fellow mods, a group whose antipathy for the motorcycle-riding rockers leads to a climactic riot in Brighton. Director Franc Roddam’s rough-edged film is a quintessential chronicle of youthful rebellion and turmoil, with Pete Townshend’s brilliant songs (including “I’ve Had Enough,” “5:15,” and “Love Reign O’er Me”) providing emotional support, and featuring Sting and Ray Winstone in early roles. – The Criterion Collection
It’s a visually stunning, gritty film that beautifully tells the story of Jimmy against the backdrop of the infamous Battle of Brighton (which as it happens took place 50 years ago this very weekend). If you’re not familiar with Phil Daniels you might recognize him from Blur’s ‘Parklife’ video.
With music from The Who underpinning the film and Brighton as the dramatic backdrop, Quadrophenia is an absolute treat for the music fan with an interest in life and culture of 1960’s Britain.
The recent Criterion release is especially good, being a digitally restored transfer of the uncut version as supervised by cinematographer Brian Tufano. There are some great bonus features too, which to be honest, bonus features usually don’t interest me. These however did and include two fascinating segments from French television programmes Sept jours du monde and Seize millions de jeunes from 1964/65 about Mods and Rockers.
It’s particularly interesting to see actual footage of these subcultures from the time period and insightful into how the broader world viewed these two factions and the violence occurring between them.
If you have an opportunity to see it on the large screen do so, it was gorgeous to see at TIFF – though absolutely nothing will ever beat having seen it on Brighton Beach as part of the Stella Artois Screen Tour Series, now that was a screening I’ll never forget.