I saw this film really late on TV the other night for the first time in several years and was reminded how much of a classic it is. For me, the movie is one of the most important 'teenage angst' movies ever made and truly sums up the tensions of working class Britain in the 60s.
The 60s began a social revolution in Britain. No longer were teens all prim and proper, with bowl cut hair and not a button misplaced. No longer did they listen to friendly, middle of the road camp fire songs. The 60s brought the Mods and the Rockers. On the surface these two gangs couldn't be more different. Mods in their Ben Sherman suits, with their pristine hair, listening to The Kinks and The Who. Rockers with their leather jackets, hair greased back, listening to Chuck Berry and Elvis. But underneath they are the same as every teenager - frustrated with a need to belong, to feel like you're part of something. The 60s had brought about a subculture dichotomy which would both become a scar and an iconic piece of British history.
In Quadrophenia we see the world through the eyes of Jimmy (Phil Daniels), a Mod who is frustrated by a dead end job and violent, scrutinising parents. He is a time bomb, just like all of his friends and it's only a matter of time before rockers light the fuse and give them an excuse to blow. Brighton is no longer a quaint, slightly disappointing beach town - it's a battle field for embittered youths. Never has gang violence been so effortlessly cool...and harrowingly brutal. The more Jimmy strives to be an individual, the more he ironically fades in the flurry of violence.
"I don't wanna be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a Mod, see? I mean, you gotta be somebody, ain't ya, or you might as well jump in the sea and drown."
This movie contains the frank grittiness that British cinema used to embody but now all too rarely features. It shares something with masterpieces such as 'Scum' (with Ray Winstone) and 'The Firm' (with Gary Oldman). There are very few Directors today who can bring that sort of blue collar realism to the screen and who have the vision to see the poetic nature of factories and warehouses and people aspiring to be more than a cog. One who comes to mind is Shane Meadows, who obviously takes a lot from movies like this.
Phil Daniels acts wonderfully throughout the film and portrays the confusions, frustrations and folly of youth beautifully. His world begins to unravel and rebelling against the establishment becomes intoxicating. Soon everyone around him becomes the enemy - even those closest to him. Watch how he isolates himself from everyone around him, even when he is at fault and they are just trying to help him.
With an amazing soundtrack (composed entirely by The Who) and a wonderful array of unpolished performances culminating in a breathtaking final scene, this bleak 70s gem comes highly recommended. (And the more awful films like 'Green Street' and basically any Danny Dyer movie try and emulate it, the more it shines).