October 31, 2020

1975-04-18 – The Press Democrat

1975 04 18 The_Press_Democrat_Fri__Apr_18__1975_

‘ , ’ li’lm ' '
. ‘mmmvsmop
m’wt'itten by Pete Tm
‘Qh’enm is the movie that
novel that then are that
"when much too much may
he just about right. when
maximum: agproaches
'm w:- ta allow oneself to
become the victim is to
triumph as the victor.

The movie that pretends
to be blasphemous is an all-
out Chfistian assault on the
senses. Salvation is the
message but “Tommy”
couldn’t care less about ap.
peeling to reason. It doesn’t
want to convert men's
minds. it wants to paralyze
them. It pounds you, insults
you, mauls you, and drills
holes into your eardrums—-~
in case salvation turnsout
to be a matter of physical
implantation, something the
missionaries never thought
of.

With the exception of
“Women in Love.” which
was a fairly decent. simpli-
fied. scaled-down version of
the DH. Lawrence novel,
all of Russell’s previous
films have struck me as
gargantuan mistakes, the
work of a manic window-
dresser who thinks he has a
hot line to Freud, and whose
movies mostly recall the
disciplines of Olson and
Johnson.

In “The Music Lovers"
(about Tchaikovsky). “The
Devils“ (suggested in part
by Aldous Huxley's “The

I Dalila “WW3 “The

sasub’imiah” tahbut
WW); and em
in‘fie Boy Erie“, " the
idnireetor has pursued his
m with all the. grain of
a trainer attenuating to re-
mm a drunk elephant.

Russell hasn‘t changed
his method with “Tommy,"
but 10i- the first time he has
found a property that not
only fits his style but also
excuses it from the kind of
rational scrutiny that was
so withering to the other
films.

“Tommy” is to movies
what a juke box is to furni-
ture. It’s not something
you'd want to live with ev-
ery day but it’s kind of fun
when you go out.

Townshend‘s rock opera
~50 called, I suppose, be-
cause there’s no dialogue
that isn’t sung, though I‘m
not sure that qualifies it as
opera—is a very loose mor-
ality tale about a little boy
named Tommy who’s
struck deaf. dumb and blind
when he sees his stepfather
murder his real father. who
was supposedly lost in
World War 11. For satirical
purposes that aren’t of the
heaviest weight. Tommy

becomes the champion of
pinball playing.
Russell is still calling

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upon Freud tor help. The

greed. parental iaziness.

"Tonimy. " She is as seen-

tihn gives every hdication medical quackery. organ» tionai as she intends to be.
Roger Daltrey plays (and

sings) the groWn-up Tommy
with a lot of the same
verve, and with the kind of
comic. mock innocence that
keeps the Christ-figure

that what Tommy saw the
night he was traumatized
was not the murder of his
father but simply his step-
dad and mum having a co
in the privacy of their bed
room. The old primal scene
problem. Which actually
makes more sense, if sense
is what you‘re after in
“Tommy”-—-though it
shouldn’t be. The story of
Tommy’s fall, rise and fall
is merely the excuse for
Russell to present Town-
shend’s score (more than 24
songs) in a way that illumi-
nates the concerns of the
concerned youth of the
i960s, and that sends up
those concerns at the same
time. The music is exciting
and genuinely original.
The targets of
“Tommy’s“ satire are—are
you ready ?—materialism.

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ized religion, celebrity tel-
eviaiongiicklenesa. and lots
of other things in passing,
including the perversity of
dirty old uncles left in the
charge of helpless nephews".

As “Tommy" may be the o

perfect vehicle for Russell‘s
kind of overstatement, Rus-
sell may be the perfect di-
rector tor Ann-Margret’s
particular kind of periorm~
in; energy. No other film
she has been in has as fully
utilized her insatiable appe-
tite for singing, dancing and
generaliyraising the root as

cunnatws

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