James D. Cooper's colorfully incisive documentary "Lambert & Stamp" answers the obvious question "Who were Lambert & Stamp?" before proceeding to pose the considerably trickier "Were Lambert & Stamp the Who?"
By way of clarification, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were friends and business partners looking to make an artistic statement in the burgeoning London scene of the early 1960s.
Neither Rockers nor Mods, Lambert, the Oxford-educated, closeted gay son of a celebrated symphony conductor, and Stamp, the working-class cockney East Ender younger brother of actor Terence Stamp, initially set out to make an edgy film and ended up managing a scrappy young band.
Under their all-encompassing tutelage the band originally billed as the High Numbers would go on to international renown as the Who, and the extent to which Lambert & Stamp can take credit for that transformation is thoughtfully weighed in this revealing film.
Gathered together but tellingly not all in one place to provide the articulate perspective are Stamp (before his 2012 death) and surviving bandmates Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.
Although Lambert, who struggled with alcohol and heroin addiction, died in 1981, his presence is felt in the rich archival footage and the perceptive on-screen accounts that compellingly demonstrate the alchemy that can transpire when kismet and perseverance intersect at the right time in the right place.
"Lambert & Stamp"
MPAA rating: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes.
Playing: At the Landmark, West Los Angeles.