Wednesday, 16 November 2005

More about Tommy

This blog is basically an outlet for me. Not just a place to vent or exhibit or to navel-gaze; but also a place to put that stuff which I don't want to keep in my head, and don't want to forget about, but won't go anywhere else - too tangential for the dissertation, insufficiently solemn and hectoring for publication elsewhere, not teachable, too long to write on the toilet wall. I don't really understand how I managed before I got me a blog, frankly.

Tommy (1975) is a rock opera. Ken Russell, one of the English cinema's great visionaries, wrote and directed it. It is adapted from The Who's 1969 concept album of the same name, and Peter Townshend and The Who did the music for the movie. I don't know much about either Russell or The Who outside this collaboration, so don't expect too much insight on those scores (though biographical elements are going to come up at some point.) The movie is what interests me.

Stated plainly, Tommy is about the impossibility of religious salvation. It is a sad, tragic story, not an uplifting one: it says that spiritual insight and enlightenment can't be communicated and shared without creating a spiritually bankrupt cult of personality. The hero suffers through a string of appalling childhood traumas - Oedipal horror, physical and psychological abuse and neglect - which send him into himself and cut him off from contact with the world. Miraculously, briefly, he struggles out of his bondage, but his attempt to spread the good news about freedom from suffering is misinterpreted (both innocently and cynically) as an invitation for disciples to subject themselves to the same deprivations and severings.

4 comments:

Zoe said...

Go to the video shop and get out Russell's "Lair of the White Worm" immediate!

*rolls up sleeves, seeing another Tommy post there already*

Lucy Tartan said...

Ah yes, I knew he'd filmed that. It's a very entertaining novel. I'll look out for it.

genevieve said...

I adore their music, but haven't seen the film - will have to get onto that. I do know the Who were discovered by Kit Lambert, the son of composer Constant Lambert (whose piece I played in my 8th grade piano exam many moons ago.)That's two top '60s -70s bands with a backward nod to classical music - the other is Led Zeppelin of course, whose multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones came from a family of musicians and did most of the arrangements for LZ's work.
You have piqued my interest - why don't you try submitting your piece to a film journal? See http://afiresearch.rmit.edu.au for some publications to consider.

Lucy Tartan said...

oops I missed your comment when you first made it, Genevieve. Thank you for that information. The degrees of separation are often not so many, between high & low cultural environments.

I won't pretend I wouldn't like to publish something in a respectable journal, but this is really meant as an experiment in film criticism via the blog from. I just want to see what happens really. As of today I've written three installments and have a much better idea of the pros and cons. Like at first I thought the unlimited space would be a bonus, but actually this makes it tougher to maintain some selectivity about what to write and what to pass over. Kinda like when you take a very large suitcase on holiday you also bring all sorts of junk ya didn't need.

I am enjoying myself, though, let that be said!