If you thought that bands that were formed purely because of musically extemporaneous motives was a recent phenomenon, think again. Filmmakers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert just wanted to make a Nouvelle Vague style film about a band that portrayed the mod culture in England in the 60s. They ended up managing The Who instead. Cinematographer cum director James D. Cooper tells the story of these two men and their times.
From Lambert’s discovery of The High Numbers, to the change of name to The Who because of poster design (true story, apparently), the tensions between Townshend and Daltrey, the expensive life off credit and their posh address in Belgravia, to the turning point that was “Tommy” and the decay of Lambert into heroin addiction, Cooper does a good job of giving a full picture of the band and its managers even to the unknowing audience. Using the archive footage of the young, unknown band (filmed for the never-to-be-made new wave film) to its best effect, Lambert and Stamp is undoubtedly a must for The Who die hard fans.
However, for everything else, the documentary just feels way too long. After the initial burst of energy when portraying the 60s and mod culture, you soon realize Lambert and Stamp, no matter how many drugs have taken, are not half as interesting as Townshend and Moon. After the first successes, the film just rambles on like an old man. The initial premise of two men from different worlds coming together to make art (Lambert being an Oxford educated, composer son, Stamp the working class chap) is soon ruined as you realize that this is yet another story of the grim backstage and backstabbing of the music industry. By the time we reach Lambert’s (death in) Venice times, you can’t stop glancing at your watch. Is there enough story in these two characters to justify a feature-lenght documentary? Maybe not.
Being directed by a cinematographer, it comes to no surprise to see that Lambert and Stamp’s interviews are a joy to the eyes, and Cooper even dares to leave happy mistakes in the final film (from someone’s hair dirtying the frame, to questions off-mic), a gimmick that intensifies as the film comes closer to the end. But that’s it for boldness and originality. All that’s left is archive footage and interviews, edited in a way that fails to capture the energy of the band. Add some grumpy, still annoyed at the whole thing band members (Pete Townshend this means you), nothing more than harmless anecdotes and no particular new insight and you would be better off watching Tommy or Quadrophenia.
Mostly a requiem for a film that never happened, ending up as some scribbled notes on the life of filmmakers that never were, Lambert and Stamp hardly makes a difference in the already saturated world of rockumentaries, as it shies away from the rock itself.
Lambert and Stamp will be released in DVD on 2nd November 2015.