Hollywood always gets it wrong. For anyone who has gone to the cinema to see their favorite book brought to life on screen, anyone who has a passion that some studio exec decided he could exploit, this is not a hard theory to get behind. Hollywood takes what's good and fucks it up.
This makes Quadrophenia the rarest of beasts. Not only is it an adaptation of a rock opera by The Who, but it's a rock opera about a particularly exclusive subculture, the mods. Pill-poppers, clothes-shoppers, scooter-hoppers--the mods were a special breed of '60s wild child that eschewed the dirty rock aesthetic for a more fashionable, mannered look and the shuffle of American soul and R&B. Released in 1979, Quadrophenia coincided with a mod resurgence propelled by bands like The Jam, who emulated The Who and the original fast fashion of Carnaby Street.
The genesis of the story, though, came six years earlier in the form of Pete Townshend's double Who album. The title refers to the peculiar psychological malady of Jimmy; a character designed to represent the four diverse faces of the band. Quadrophenia was perhaps The Who's most textured album, full of grace and raw emotion, following Jimmy on his journey of self-discovery. When it came time to bring the opera to life, it required a more subtle touch than Ken Russell brought to Tommy.
The solution? Townshend and the filmmakers traded most of the music for the story. In scruffy Phil Daniels, they found their perfect Jimmy. Through female troubles, parental misguiding, brawls on Brighton beaches, and the destruction of an idol (AceFace, played by none other than Sting!), Jimmy ends up on the other side of himself, a new person.
Best of all, director Franc Roddam pulls no punches. Gone are the cartoony good kids of early rock 'n' roll films, replaced with the crazed reality of one of the most exciting times in modern history. The good folks at Rhino have restored Quadrophenia for release on DVD, and by way of promotion, Portland is getting a rare opportunity to see it on a real screen. If you pass it up, then you're out of your brain.