Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ten Statements About....PURPLE RAIN (1984)

"Batgir--no wait, it's just Prince...."
"You wouldn't pass the initiation."
"What initiation?"
"Well, for starters you have to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka."

1) Okay, let's put this on the table here....this is a thoroughly plotless little film, with a narrative that boils down to 'I don't wanna do other people's music until my abusive dad almost kills himself, and now I'm willing to do other people's music.' Somehow, this tiny little shred of story is enough to occupy almost two hours of running time!

2) ....and director Albert Magnoli is able to do this by just running through the movie like he's been set on fire. Magnoli utilizes a number of cinematic tricks to conceal how little there is in this film including montage, parallel scenes, audio/visual editing dissonance, and other things obviously influenced by music video language....and the result is a film that should by no means be able to keep up a fast narrative flow flowing extremely quickly.

3) You know what else Magnoli manages to do? He creates a veracity to the world he's created even though pretty much every single character is played by amateurs save for those playing The Kid's parents. It's obvious none of these people can act effectively, and that there are long stretches of the film that is clumsily improvised yet we don't care because Magnoli is able to keep us from dwelling on those acting.

4) One of the things that I love about this film is how it's both a snapshot of a specific era and yet, because the script by William Blinn and Magnoli avoids making any sort of topical-at-the-time reference, it really hasn't dated. If you're ever curious about what a Funk Club was like circa 1984, this is the film you need to see....and you can still enjoy the story without any shock of the film's age jarring you.

5) I resent the fact that we never got our Morris Day/Jerome feature film. These two just steal the film at gunpoint from Prince whenever they're onscreen, and they're the most comfortable of the non-actors in front of the camera. They deserved a much, much bigger movie career then they ended up having.
Appolonia Kotero is about to reveal the true reason
for her casting in this film....

6) Even though she is very easy to look at, Appolonia Kotero is the weakest link of this film. Apparently Apppolonia was added during production after Vanity backed out, and it's not surprising to me; she seems to drift through this film awkwardly and timidly and her line readings are almost uniformly winge-worthy. And on top of all this, her one musical number is easily the most boring of all.

7) And speaking of the musical score....let's be honest here. The songs are good but the smack of a 'greatest hits' package, being pretty disjointed. Hell, I always find it funny that when we get to the big moment when The Kid accepts that he can accept the input of The Revolution and not treat them as a back-up group, the song that represents that really only different due to the tempo (it doesn't help that some of the songs prior to the transformation were co-written by Wendy and Lisa). That being said, I do appreciate that Prince is generous enough to let some of his co-stars have some of the highlights, particularly the Time's two numbers.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise...these two are the true
stars of this film.
8) I wonder how the film would have changed if we got a little bit more of The Kid's parents. I do get the idea that we're seeing these characters only through The Kid's eyes, and usually it's at moments when they're at their worst. I do get that without seeing this harshness we wouldn't get such a strong sense of why The Kid is so protective of his music and is so afraid of becoming his father. But if we got more nuance to both characters, I wonder if we would get a more nuanced version of The Kid....if only by osmosis.

9) I know this is a silly statement, but I really wish they didn't include Morris and Jerome in amongst the people standing there grooving on 'Purple Rain.' It implies a face turn that is neither set up previously or earned by them. It's weird, because I know on some level that this rivalry they have is friendly, but Morris is such a wonderfully delicious villain that I wanted to see some form of comeuppance...even if it is just him getting upset over The Kid's renewed artistry.

10) I almost regret seeing more of Minneapolis than what amounts to one street corner, some railroad tracks and some suburban homes. I say this because what little we see of the outside looks pretty damn interesting--and the areas surrounding the city come off as extremely beautiful.

Overall...a strange little film that maybe shouldn't have worked but does on every level to create a snapshot of a time and place, filled with excellent music and infused with a great energy. And because it hasn't dated even with all the 80's fashion, this is recommended viewing.

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