Monday, January 30, 2012

Purple Rain (1984)

Title: Purple Rain (1984)

Director: Albert Magnoli

Cast: Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Clarence Williams III

Purple Rain is one of those movies that completely captures what it was like to live in the 80’s. I lived in the big apple during the time this film was made and watching it brought back so many memories about the over all experience of living during 1984, a day and age in which people break danced on the streets and break dancing battles erupted during lunch time amongst students. This was also the time when Madonna, Michael Jackson, Cindy Lauper and Prince’s careers were starting to really take of. Purple Rain came during those years in Prince’s career when fame was beginning to engulf him. The film was a brilliant career move  for Prince because it mixed the selling of box office tickets with the selling of the films soundtrack, which of course made Prince’s career and assured him as a main stay in popular culture. Plus, he’s just so damn eccentric! How could he be ignored? The dude was born to be on stage. I loved every second of this Rock and Roll film! When it was first released, I was just a kid; a pre-teen, what the hell did I know about Prince and how awesome this movie was? All I knew about Prince back in those days was how much I kept hearing “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” over the radio, and that I liked these songs. Little did I know that this awesome movie was attached to them!

Purple Rain is all about a character called ‘The Kid’. He has a band called ‘The Revolution’ and they are currently pretty popular in this music club they play in called First Avenue and 7th Street Entry, which by the way is a real life music club in Minneapolis. According to the manager the club is the hottest place in town to play if you want to start your career. The Kid is enjoying his trip to popularity, but he soon confronts a couple of problems on his way to stardom. Number one, there is a competing act called ‘The Time’ that is trying to muscle ‘The Kid’ and his band ‘The Revolution’ out of the stage. At the same time, there’s a new girl on the block called Apollonia who’s looking for fame and fortune and everything that goes with it. She wants to get her career started, and this club looks like it’s the place to do it. Apollonia is immediately attracted to ‘The Kid’ whom she sees performing up on stage, doing his thing. But Morris, the lead singer for ‘The Time’ thinks this new chick is hot too, so he offers her a position as lead dancer on his band. In the midst of this love triangle, ‘The Kid’ is trying to stay focused on his craft because you know, the dude wants to really make it. Will his ego get in the way? Will Apollonia end up with Morris Day or with Prince?

So first off, this is a rock and roll movie through and through. These are films that examine the Rock and Roll lifestyle from every angle, they glorify it, demonize it, explore it, make fun of it, the whole shebang. Good examples of films of this nature are Almost Famous (200), Still Crazy (1998), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny (2005), The Doors (1991), Sid and Nancy (1986) and Light of Day (1987) with Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox. These are films about characters that live and breathe Rock and Roll, and die by it as well. They’d give anything for it. In Purple Rain ‘The Kid’ as portrayed by Prince himself is the epitome of a rock star. He is self centered, focused on his career and kind of a pompous prick. But when he gets up on stage, there’s no doubt he is the best at what he does.

An interesting element about Purple Rain is that the whole film is sprinkled with songs from the album. Actually, let me make this clear, this film IS the album. The songs tell the story. During various points in the film, it’s all about The Kid getting up on stage and performing a song. If I’m correct, every single song of the album was played in the film. I don’t know if I should consider this a unique film because of this or if it was just a slick marketing move. It’s probably a mix of both cause I actually enjoyed hearing these songs I’ve heard hundreds of times before through out the whole film. I thought it was cool how the songs actually help to tell the story. It is also a romantic film, Prince falls for Apollonia, but so does Morris Day, so there’s this battle over Apollonia’s affections, yet we all know who’s going to win it right? This reminds me, Purple Rain is sprinkled with lots of sensuality, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows a thing or two about Prince. How sexy is this film? Well, when Purple Rain was first submitted to the MPAA, they gave it an X rating for a sex scene between The Kid and Apollonia, which is quite understandable. I mean, as it is, that sex scene is steamy enough already! So they trimmed it down and got an R. There’s another sex scene that was considered way to over the top which never saw the light of day.  Another element that distinguishes the film is the comedy. Morris Day is one of the funniest things about the movie. Actually many of the characters in the film all have a great sense of humor to them. They had me laughing out loud, this is a very lively film. But the film isn’t all happiness, The Kid has an abusive father who beats him and his mother. At the same time, some of The Kid’s band members hate him because he doesn’t want to hear their ideas for new songs. He only cares about his own music. Will he ever learn to collaborate creatively with others?

This movie was a smashing success for everyone involved. In fact, it was a triple edged success for Prince because at the time he had the #1 film, #1 single and #1 album in the nation, a feat never achieved before by anyone! The film made 80 million at the box office, which I guess was a lot for a film like this one back in those days. Prince actually won an Oscar for the music to the film. And while we are on the subject of film and Prince, Prince has tried his hand in filmmaking more than once! He didn’t direct Purple Rain, but I think it was a stroke of genius to pare the film with the album. This was a formula that Prince tried again and again through out his career. For example he mixed mediums again in one of his world tours where he would sell the ticket to the concert with a copy of his new album included in the price of admission, in this way ensuring that both his tour and his new album were successes! He tried duplicating the album/movie formula with a film called Sign of the Times (1987), unfortunately it didn’t work as well, the concert film flopped only to find some popularity when it was released on VHS. He tried the album/movie formula yet again with a film called Graffiti Bridge (1990), sadly, another flop, which surprised many considering that it was a direct sequel to Purple Rain. Even with this to it’s advantage, the film flopped. I guess it was too little too late, the times had changed. The truth is that outside of Purple Rain, Prince’s films have always flopped or received Razzies. Even when he is paying homage to Federico Fellini he does badly. His homage to 81/2 called Under the Cherry Moon (1986) was panned by critics, because audiences where expecting a sequel to Purple Rain and what they got was a black and white movie about two guys trying to swindle a rich girl out of her 50 million trust account. But forget all about Prince’s other cinematic experiments, Purple Rain is solid entertainment and well worth the watch, this is a time capsule of a movie that will send you directly back to 1984 without the need of a DeLorean!

Rating: 4 out of 5


Ricky said...

Ahhh, you just made me very nostalgic. A great film in its time.

Kev D. said...

Best skinny dipping scene, maybe ever.

Franco Macabro said...

Ricky: I really liked those opening sequences inside of the club, with everyone looking all punk and cool, those where the days when it was cool to be freaky.

KevD: True! And it wasnt even lake Minnetonka! Totally agree Kev, Apollonia was quite the number!

Unknown said...

Nice look back at this film. I didn't know about it originally getting an X rating.

Used to love Morris Day - he has some pretty funny bits in the film and it always made me laugh at seeing just how full of himself he is!

Jack Thursby said...

Great film. Watched it on TV a while back. The film is pure unadultered 80s in movie form.

Very little script to speak of but the music is brilliant. If you haven't already check out some of The Time's albums too. Prince basically wrote and performed as The Time with Morris Day just doing the vocals.

Franco Macabro said...

J.D: Morris Day was the one that kept me laughing, like that scene where he tells he's new dancers to stop their dancing routine cause he dont like it and they say "why dont you let us do our own stuff" and he says "we already tried that. Remember?" as if the results had been disastrous. So funny. And that whole scene where they do a riff on the word "what?" hilarious.

Jack: Agree about their not being much of a script, but I guess with a movie that's this's really more about music and emotions than script, which is exactly what this ones about. It's all about that attitude!

SFF said...

Great stuff my fried. This was a major film in my day but mostly because this is one of the absolute classic recordings of the 1980s. Purple Rain is one of the records I just couldn't live without and still love it to this day.

Boy, I've heard music from him recently and it's sorely lacking the necessary magic he brought to his work with The Revolution. His work with Wendy & Lisa on 1999, Purple Rain and Around The World In A Day is a true trilogy of the highest music order.

As always, great choice for coverage on your site and I do my best to kep up with Connoisseur.

Long live Appolonia the Sex Shooter! : )

Franco Macabro said...

I love that album as well, Purple Rain is such a classic. I havent had the chance of listening to his other albums, though I have heard songs from them. I need to get a hold of the rest of his albums.

Thanks for the kind words in regards to the blog and thanks for keeping up. There is a special article coming up in my next post, and it's going to be special because I will be celebrating my 400th post with it! So check in later in the day to read it; it's taken me some time to get it done, but it's turned quite cool. It's gonna be one of my best ones yet!


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