I watched these two films with my kids; Quadrophenia (1979) with both my son and daughter and True Romance (1993) with just my son. To actually get my kids, especially my daughter, to watch a film with me, well it’s just short of being a miracle. I had Quadrophenia on my list of films to watch with them for a very long time and we finally did it. I had a lovely Criterion copy that my friend gave me as a gift so that made it an even more anticipated viewing.
Both of my kids, who are currently 21 and 23, like older music. For instance, my son and I did a car trip a couple of weekends ago and now that he drives, he wanted to listen to “his” music. I thought that was only fair, so he plugged in his MP3 and we listened to…the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, U2 and The Who. It’s not that they don’t listen to music I am not familiar with, but it’s lovely that they like music that I can sing along to as well.
I was really looking forward to rewatching this film. I saw it when it first played in the theatres and I liked it much better than Tommy (1975). I remembered in particular liking Sting’s sullenness, and romanticized the idea of a British coming-of-age film in a slightly earlier era than my own.
Okay, so I am going to make this a real short review of Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia. It was a film about dopey young people who liked to drink, do drugs and dance to rock music. Nothing new here. There was a slight bit more to it of course, like parents not understanding their children and people feeling they need to belong whether it’s to the Mods or the Rockers, and a wee bit of hoodlumism thrown in. Jimmy (Phil Daniels) is our working-class protagonist who fancies Steph (Leslie Ash) who’s dating handsome car mechanic Peter (Garry Cooper).
But Steph is flirty and this among other things cause Jimmy to spend a lot of time looking out at the sea, thinking, hoping and dreaming. He admires and wishes to emulate Ace Face (Sting), who he thinks is the coolest guy on the planet. Little does he know…
There’s a small, poignant scene when Jimmy is bathing in the public bathhouse trying to out-sing someone else in another cubicle who is equally vocal. When they peer over the bath wall at each other they realize they are old mates and arrange to meet up for a drink once they’re dressed. How to reconcile the fact that Kevin (Ray Winstone) is a Rocker makes this a disappointing reunion for Jimmy, a Mod. Kevin, seemingly older and somewhat wiser, knows these things don’t really matter.
There’s a more interesting turn of events when the gang takes a trip to Brighton, ending in a riot. This is where we meet the coolest Mod of all, Ace Face (Sting) whose silver motorcycle has the initials GB on the front and I am suspecting that was a little “in thing” for those who knew, which stood for his name Gordon Sumner.
Another little fun visual to note was an image of a young Pete Townshend plastered amongst images of girls and icons on Jimmy’s bedroom wall.
Besides music by The Who, there is a really good soundtrack of oldies that runs throughout the film.
(L-R) Trevor Laird, Toyah Willcox, Phil Davis, Leslie Ash, Phil Daniels, Gary Shail, Garry Cooper and Mark Wingett.
True Romance was as entertaining as I remembered it to be when I saw it back in 1993. Already famous for writing and directing Reservoir Dogs the previous year, it was noted by many of us that True Romance, directed by Tony Scott, was written by Quentin Tarantino. Although Tarantino isn’t the first to offer a film that includes a flashback within a flashback, I can’t think of too many vintage films that offer a three-way shootout. (Maybe 1966s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?) In films filled with mega-violence, this somewhat comic trademark is always a redeeming feature for me.
My son had me stop the film immediately after the sex scene between Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and Clarence (Christian Slater) wanting to discuss the reality of a beautiful young woman accidentally meeting you in a theatre (or bar or wherever) and then having the fantasy of your dreams follow. Resuming the film, it was satisfying for us to enjoy how Tarantino’s fantasy came about in reality. A male friend of mine told me he had been watching this film on occasion since he was a young teen, and for him as well as Tarantino most probably, how Patricia Arquette and her role here was every boy’s fantasy. And as a fan of Arquette myself, I can understand why. I just loved seeing her so young and gorgeous! I especially enjoyed her hotel bedroom scene with James Gandolfini, now iconic as Tony Soprano. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s not what you are imagining.
There are so many famous cameos in this film and an actor I’ve always thought was superb since I first saw him in Sid and Nancy (1986) is Gary Oldman. Even after 26 years, I could still remember how frightening his character Drexl Spivey was in True Romance. Here’s who else I remembered: Canadian actor Saul Rubinek as Lee Donowitz, perfectly depicting our image of a Hollywood producer; his sniveling, ingratiating lackey Elliot Blitzer played by Bronson Pinchot who had just come off the hit tv show Perfect Strangers playing the alien, Balki; and my favourite–goofy, unwittingly fearless stoner Floyd, delightfully played by Brad Pitt after having just finished playing psychopathic Early Grayce in Kalifornia.
People I surprisingly didn’t remember: Samuel L. Jackson on screen for a split second or two as Big Don in a scene with Gary Oldman; Dennis Hopper as Clarence’s father Clifford Worley and his tormentor Vincenzo Coccotti played by Christopher Walken. How I have forgotten the scene the two played together is beyond me, especially because it contained a most hilariously ridiculous conversation about black men in Sicily.
When the three-way shootout finally arrives, I am happy because all the violence up until then was making me tense. While I never thought of him until I saw him, once Sean Penn’s younger brother Chris appeared on the scene as Detective Nicky Dimes, I recalled how he had done well for a little while in the acting profession.
Although this film was not directed by Tarantino, it very much feels like it was. But director Tony Scott, brother of Ridley, gives it a slightly glossier edge than perhaps you feel more than see when viewing Tarantino-directed films. The underlying thought in the back of my mind while watching the film was that Tony Scott had sadly committed suicide by jumping from a suspension bridge in 2012.
If you enjoy films by Quentin Tarantino and haven’t seen True Romance, treat yourself to this one.