Thursday, 11 February 2016

Tommy (5 Stars)

I'm always very cautious about buying Blu-ray versions of films that I already own on DVD. It's something I only do with films that I consider to be my favourites. Even then it's not always worth it. For instance, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" looks identical on DVD and Blu-ray, due to the (deliberately) grainy film picture. Other films, like the original version of "Planet of the Apes", have new life breathed into them. "Tommy" falls into the latter category. When I'm deciding whether to re-buy a film that I already have I use the web site for advice. Of course, if I'm buying a film for the first time it has to be on Blu-ray. Why would anyone possibly prefer DVDs in today's day and age?

Due in part to the wonderful Blu-ray quality, I now think that "Tommy" is one of the best films ever made. Yes, it was already included in my list of 30 films to watch before you die, but now I'll push it up into my top 10. I'm not claiming that I understand everything. I've searched online for interpretations of the film, and none of them are satisfying. On the contrary, most of the reviewers seem to understand it less than me, because they see it as an adaptation of the Who's rock opera, rather than accepting that it's Ken Russell's own film using the Who's music.

Ken Russell's "Tommy" is the story of a man who became a Messiah who abandoned his religion when it spun out of control. It's impossible to interpret the film at all without seeing to parallels to Christianity, but I have the feeling that Ken Russell is trying to say something that goes further. Baptism doesn't save people. Tommy baptises his mother, and her life changes outwardly, but inside she's still the same person. This is even more the case with Tommy's step-father Frank. He becomes the leader of the new religion, but he's still a cruel, evil man.

Today was the first time that I became aware that the film ends with Tommy becoming one with his father, Captain Walker. I don't know how to interpret this. The obvious connection would be Jesus' relationship to God as his father when he walked the Earth, but I don't think that Captain Walker is godly enough to allow this comparison. Apart from this, it wouldn't fit in at this late stage of the film. It would have been more appropriate earlier in the film when Tommy was teaching his disciples, but at that time Tommy was just telling them to copy his own life. Maybe it's just Tommy embarking on a new path of spirituality, wanting to learn instead of teach. Does even the Messiah know everything?

This is a wonderful film. I'd like to watch it in a group and discuss it afterwards.

This is probably the film's most bizarre scene. A guitar-playing Frankenstein's monster marries a little girl in a traditional Christian church while the police hold back the crowds. What was Ken Russell thinking? The girl is played by Ken's daughter Victoria, who was 12 years old at the time.

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