Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Tommy; Musical, UK, 1975; D: Ken Russell, S: Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Elton John, Jack Nicholson

Tommy was born as a normal kid to Nora Walker on the first day of the end of World War II. His father disappeared in the war and she presumed he was killed. When Tommy was 6 years old, Nora found a new lover, Frank, but then her real husband suddenly returned, alive, and saw them in bed. Frank killed him with a lamp and since Tommy saw everything, he was so shocked he became blind, deaf and mute. As a grown man, Tommy was lead by his mother to a preacher and a doctor to cure him. One day, Tommy discovers a talent for pinball machine and becomes a famous star. One day, he mysteriously regains his senses and becomes happy, opening a facility that would heal disabled people. But the cult backfires and people kill Nora and Frank, while he climbs a mountain.

Avant-garde musical "Tommy", a film adaptation of The Who's '69 "rock opera" concept album with the same title, is one of those strange surreal films that speak through subconscious means rather than through logic, making it a piece of cinema that will split the viewers into those who can't enjoy it and those who are open-minded enough to do. From start to finish, the film is filled with non-stop musical sequences, without one moment of "normal" drama, but maverick director Ken Russell decided to direct it as a Felliniesque fantasy grotesque, filled with bizarre scenes (the camera zooms in into the eye of a young Tommy and lands in space where hundreds of crucifixes form a triangle; an adult Tommy meets the "acid queen" and steps in into a knight's armour, only to transform into a skeleton; Tommy's mother smashes the television set from which a river of beans starts to leak, while she just starts to wheel in it) that are so over-the-top that they cause an overdoses and numb the audience. Hyper surreal, mad and completely authentic, "Tommy" is a film that has to be admired for it's wild energy, but it somehow fails to reach the over-human feeling beyond the human mind, like Dunning's similar "Yellow Submarine's" tone. For such a experimental film, the music was crucial, but the only impressive lyrics are "See me...Feel me...Touch me...Heel me", while the rest of the songs list is only solid. Also, the only truly good 1 minute subplots are the ones revolving around the small cameo from Jack Nicholson as the doctor and the little girl that fell in love with Tommy, but alas, they only lasted for 1 minute. There are traces of the search for freedom, overcoming tragedy, need for contact, challenge of perception and critique of organized religion, but because of the freaky tone it's at moments really hard to sit through the whole film.


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