Lambert and Stamp

Mod rock doc Lambert and Stamp (15) *** delves into the history behind the formation of the original British super group The Who.

The band were put together by the contrasting but complimentary talents of Chris Stamp, an East End chancer and brother of actor Terence, and a bon vivant Oxford graduate Kit Lambert. The pair had become friends and their dream was to make a freewheeling, New Wave-style movie about the construction of a hit pop band.

Consequently, they filmed every step of their process in casting, building and producing The Who.

But that’s only half of this story of Swinging London, the mods, the haircuts, the skirts and the spivs.

A kaleidoscope of archive images energises James D Cooper’s film, mythologising and revelling in memories of the little clubs and fashions of 60s London. It is still wonderfully exciting to view such images, filtered through the eye of an American fan, and there aren’t even too many cliched old shots of Carnaby Street or Biba and the King’s Road.

Terence Stamp gives a generous, melliflously-voiced account of his brother, while Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend contribute fully. Although Lambert died many years ago, he is a forceful presence throughout thanks to the hours of film of him, and there is plenty of colourful reminiscence from Chris Stamp, filmed before he died in 2012.

This film is almost what they would have wanted, a parade of jump cuts and cool edits, a film about a project and a dream that grew out of all proportion. It’s really two films in one – the modern day, talking head, rock nostalgia doc; and underneath, the palimpsest of Lambert and Stamp’s proposed movie. I guess in the end, the rock band got bigger than the movie. (There’s one lovely interview where someone tells Chris, when he brought them his first publicity shots for the group, that the lads were way too ugly to ever succeed).

Ultimately, for all its rock pretensions, the film is at its best when reflecting on a sort of love story between two men – Lambert was gay while Stamp, like his brother, was an inveterate ladies’ man – set against the prejudices and fears and changing morality of the 1960s.

If old men in jumpers – Roger Daltrey take a long look at your wardrobe, mate – talking about rebellion does soon enough become ridiculous and dull, the abiding odd-couple relationship at the core of this style-conscious documentary remains fascinating and extremely touching.