Decided to send off 2018 by finally watching The Who’s Tommy, which I’ve experienced in various chunks over the years, but never seen in its entirety. The finished product is about what I expected: rock opera at its most unapologetically operatic. This epic musical odyssey—which revolves around a young man rendered blind, deaf, and dumb by childhood trauma—explores such diverse themes as infidelity, parental abuse and neglect, religious hysteria, rampant consumerism, exploitation of the disabled, and the conflict between science and spirituality. Although the band’s songs anchor the narrative, it is a visual feast first and foremost (hardly surprising, considering it was directed by Ken Russell), utilizing colorful, disorienting, psychedelic imagery in order to immerse the viewer in the protagonist’s unique perception of the world. It’s an all out cinematic assault on the senses, and while its stylistic excesses might alienate some viewers, I loved every insane minute of it.
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