Wednesday, April 01, 2015

“Lambert & Stamp”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a screening by The New York Times Film Club of the new documentary, “Lambert & Stamp” about the men who managed the rock band The Who.


Two men who start a career as documentary filmmakers wind up meeting a rock band that changes their life and the future of popular music.


In the early 1960’s of London, Chris Stamp was something of a burgeoning cinephile. Longing to make his own films, he decided that as a young man from a working class background and little source of funding, documentaries would likely be the best way to get a foothold in this business as they could be made inexpensively. Networking himself around town, he ran into Kit Lambert one day at a coffee shop; the two struck up a conversation about movie making and found common ground as Lambert was as much a film buff as Stamp. After that, however, they were completely different people – Lambert came from a wealthy family (his father was a classical music conductor and his mother a ballerina) and was well educated (he was a graduate of Oxford University).

For one of their early films, they decide to shoot a story about an up-and-coming rock and roll band that has developed a loyal but growing following among the teenagers. The name of the band is The High Numbers and its members are Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon and John Entwhistle. Since this band seems to largely reflect the post-World War II English youth of the working class, The High Numbers seemed like the perfect choice as the subject for their documentary. As the band gained notoriety, Lambert and Stamp eventually abandoned their movie idea in favor of acting as the band’s managers, subsequently changing their name to The Who.

Just as it seemed as though The Who had exhausted itself creatively, they rejuvenated their career with the album “Tommy”, which came to be known as the first so-called “rock opera” as it was the musical narration of a story about an eponymously named boy. While success followed, so did controversy; Lambert maintained that Townshend wrote the music based on a screenplay he wrote, but Townshend denies this. Regardless, this album cemented The Who’s reputation for original and dramatic work that has lasted decades. Many years later, the surviving members of the group were honored by The United States government for their contribution to the performing arts; the ceremony was also attended by Stamp, at Daltrey’s invitation. Lambert did not live to see this tribute, having died from years of abuse long ago.


For truly hardcore fans of The Who, there may be little to be learned from “Lambert & Stamp”; however, for lovers of classic rock and more casual fans of this band, the documentary is a treasure trove of valuable information about not only the history of the band but the background of their management team and how they all collaborated to make The Who one of the most successful and respected rock bands in the history of that genre. What is made still more compelling about this story is the human drama involved – the secrets that Lambert had to keep that likely led to his substance abuse and ultimately his tragic demise.

The story of this band and its management is long and complex and the documentary definitely makes an effort to include as much as the filmmaker felt important. That said, this two hour work probably could’ve been trimmed by a good 20-30 minutes because it seemed to run a bit longer than necessary. While a good deal of the archival footage is quite impressive (combined work of Daltrey’s assistance and researchers hired expressly for this purpose), some of it seems a bit repetitive as we see shots that are easily recognizable from earlier in the movie. Of course, depending on your level of interest in The Who, this may be forgivable or even unnoticeable.

Following the screening was an interview with the director of “Lambert & Stamp”, James D. Cooper. Cooper said that the idea for the film came about a decade ago, although he’s known Chris Stamp for over 20 years; he initially met Stamp in the early 1990’s when Stamp and Daltrey wanted to make a documentary about the late Who drummer Keith Moon. Although the project eventually fell through, they remained friends. Later, Cooper pitched the idea of the documentary to Stamp; because he maintained a friendship with Daltrey, Stamp was certain he would sign on, but the documentary didn’t become a reality until Pete Townshend agreed to participate.

Lambert & Stamp (2014) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!