Friday, August 31, 2012

Film Review: PURPLE RAIN (1984, Albert Magnoli)


Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 111 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew:  Prince (UNDER THE CHERRY MOON, GRAFFITI BRIDGE), Clarence Williams III (THE MOD SQUAD, 52 PICK-UP, AGAINST THE WALL, TWIN PEAKS), Apollonia Kotero (BACK TO BACK, FALCON CREST), Morris Day (GRAFFITI BRIDGE, THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FARLAINE), Olga Karlatos (MURDER ROCK, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, Fulci's ZOMBIE), Jerome Benton (UNDER THE CHERRY MOON, GRAFFITI BRIDGE). Cinematography by Donald Thorin (Mann's THIEF, TANGO & CASH, MIDNIGHT RUN).
Tag-line: "Before he created the music he lived every bit of it"
Best one-liner:  "Let's have some action!  Let's have some asses wigglin'!  ...I want some perfection!"

The Purple'd Prince of Paisley Park demands your attention.  And until you give it to him, he's just gonna be over here, off to the side, quietly revving his Hondamatic and letting the fog machines do all the work.  If you leave him alone too long, though, he might pull out this guy:
this little conical puppet guy here, and then he'll start throwing his voice and weirding everybody out, so let's not let it come to that, okay?

Let's get down to business.  I'm not gonna lie to you– I'm not what you'd call a Prince fan or a Prince buff or a Prince aficionado.  I've never had a perm, never lived in Minnesota, never worn an asymmetrical purple leather jacket, never tromped down the thoroughfare with utter confidence in an anemically dapper mustache.  I just don't think I could pull it off.  As such, I'm not going to get as in depth as perhaps I ought to, but let me tell you this:  PURPLE RAIN is fantastic.  It's the best Cannon Film musical that Golan and Globus never made.  And I hope I don't offend any sensibilities by favorably comparing the (Oscar-winning!!!) soundtrack to the zany synths of Mr. T's BE SOMEBODY OR BE SOMEBODY'S FOOL.
Often the question is posed:  is Prince a silly 80s pop moppet, or a Serious and Important Artist?  There is no easy answer, but let's say he's a Serious Moppet with tremendous musicianship. And again, let's just take a moment to thank God for PURPLE RAIN.

The plot revolves around "The Kid," a purple-jacket wearing bad boy who lives with his parents and whose band "The Revolution" is the toast of the Minneapolis music scene.  He has an ongoing rivalry with zany non-actor Morris Day (who puts his own personal spin on the tired "Who's on first" routine) and his band "The Time," a rivalry that finds its heart in a battle over who can perpetuate the fiercest dance moves and the most bird-like stage cackles.  He fights to escape the shadow of an abusive musician father (the brilliant Clarence Williams III,  who is hands down the only capital-A Actor in the film):
Mom!  Dad!  Please, Dad, she's heard you!

ARRGGHH

 the purple aftermath

and he pursues a relationship with an aspiring singer named Apollonia, whom he treats badly in a number of ways– like trafficking in passive-aggressive self-esteem reduction strategies, stealing her jewelry for his personal use, and...well... smacking her in the face:
 
Purple Fury...
...SMACCCKK

The stakes are raised, hookers are tossed in dumpsters, Prince glances furtively from behind comically oversized John Lennon sunglasses, he sighs, he cries, and strides about angrily in a purple huff.  Yeah, there's a lot going on here.  Sounds absolutely brutal, doesn't it?  Don't believe me? See some of it in action for yourself:


Whew.  That's rough stuff, and handled delicately.  Four and a half stars.

-Sean Gill

2 comments:

Mike B. said...

Good lord, that clip is disturbing! Somehow never got around to this one but since we're talkin' "52 Pick-Up"-era CWIII, I'll have to break down and check it out. Plus, Morris Day rules in any context, like that time The Time played on Saturday Night Live and he ate a chicken dinner, at a table, DURING the song!

Sean Gill said...

Not familiar with Morris Day on SNL, but that sounds amazing. And just watched GRAFFITI BRIDGE, the sequel to PURPLE RAIN. Let me say: Morris Day turns it up to 11!