What is there left to say about ‘our’ movie?
This film matters to anyone with even a passing interest in mod, youth culture, The Who or the British film industry. I can still remember seeing it for the first time, at my local cinema, with mods and rockers seated in uneasy proximity. I was 16, the mod revival was moving into top gear and the film was simply a ‘must see’.
There is no point in me going through the plot in detail, which most of you probably know intimately and are able to quote huge chunks of dialogue from. In essence the story is boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy steals scooter and rides it off a cliff.
Phil Daniels carries the film with ease. helped by director Frank Roddam making him the clear focus of the story. Daniels’ Jimmy Cooper is a classic character for teenage audiences to identify with. A lost soul, struggling with his family, working in a job he hates, stumbling with the opposite sex and seeking the reassurance of a like-minded group of friends.
But as the plot develops Jimmy loses everything, those he wanted to lose and those he didn’t. He walks away from his job, his mom throws him out of his home, the girl he adores won’t even talk to him and his behaviour alienates him from his mod friends. Then his beloved Lambretta is crushed between the wheels of a Post Office van.
One of the most interesting things about all the relationships in the film is that they seem very loose, shallow or dysfunctional – most importantly Jimmy’s with Steph (played by Lesley Ash). Yes they end up having sex, but there is very little emotional connection between them. He wants that, but he is always just her latest play thing. That relationship is always going to end in tears, his tears.
One of the film’s strengths is how it generates scenes and images we would like to have been involved in. Group scooter riding without helmets, telling your boss where he can stick his job, beach clashes with rockers and police etc. And yes, the last example is probably much better in the head than in real life. The scooters, the music, the style, the clothes; all the touchstones we want are there, wrapped up in the intense, shallow joy of being a teenager.
This is not a film I want to over-analyse because ………..I love it and guess most of you do too. It is ‘our’ film, one we can connect with and for those of us of a certain age, a movie woven into the fabric of our lives.
There probably wasn’t anything new I could say about this film that hasn’t been covered in the 38 years since it was released. Perhaps the only question about it that remains unanswered is where does Jimmy go after he walks back from the cliffs? That was the question to be answered in a sequel and rumours about a follow-up have regularly surfaced over the years. The latest one, heard recently, was that the ‘sequel’ will in fact be a TV series, so maybe we will see Jimmy’s story continued.
But in the meantime………..what are your memories of the film? What does Quadrophenia mean to you?