Thursday, 24 January 2013

Purple Rain (1984)

Prince, strangely enough, is one of the few well-known musical artists I've seen live. He played at Meadowbank stadium almost 20 years ago and I was hanging about outside with some friends. Some people had to leave the show and handed their tickets over to security guards who then handed them over to the pretty French ladies that my friend and I happened to be standing beside. The pretty French ladies didn't want to go in so, much to the dismay of the security guards, they kindly gave the tickets to my friend and me who then wandered in to battle through the crowd and see the Purple One do his thing. He was okay. The guy can play a mean guitar and has some absolutely brilliant songs in his repertoire, but he's not a great performer to enjoy live, especially when trying to get the audience to call out his name, despite having changed it at that point to the famous symbol (ironically, this was not too long after his hit single "My Name Is Prince"). Buy some Prince CDs and stick them on when you want to chill out or, even better, when you're having a special, indulgent evening in with a partner. He's like an inverted version of Barry White - tiny, thin and with a voice that can squeal all the way to the high notes.

Anyway, I digress slightly. That first paragraph may seem unimportant, but it does set things up for this review, which is, after all, about a film that was nothing more than a star vehicle for Prince. I think it's important to put forward my view on the entertainer, I think he's done some cool stuff, but he's never really struck me as a cool dude. He's more like a cross between David Blaine and a runaway Ribena berry, but maybe that's just me. Hopefully, you at least now know how apprehensive I was when I popped the Blu-ray of Purple Rain into my player.

Thankfully, the movie was surprisingly enjoyable. I'm being serious. A lot of the content is easy to point and laugh at, but there are a few surprises here and there (mainly concerning what a shit Prince, playing The Kid, is) and the soundtrack is as good as you'd expect.

Directed by Albert Magnoli (who also wrote the screenplay, with some material contributed by William Blinn), the story is a standard tale of a troubled rocker (guess who?) journeying towards his big moment of success. The lovely Apollonia Kotero plays Apollonia, a young woman who arrives in town and also wants to make her way up the showbiz ladder, and Morris Day plays . . . . . . . . . Morris, lead singer of The Time and the man who wants to get rid of The Kid. Meanwhile, The Kid also has problems at home as fights continue between his abusive father (Clarence Williams III) and his poor mother (Olga Karlatos), because all 26-year old wannabe rock stars still live with their parents.

In between scenes of enjoyably surprising raunchiness and moments of unexpected violence towards women (okay, it's not shocking when compared to other movies that I've seen, but it's pretty shocking when it's in a film starring bloody Prince) there are plenty of things to point and laugh at. The flirting between Prince and Apollonia is hilarious, especially in the scene which has Prince taking away Apollonia's ankle jewellery and generally being a bit of a dick about it. Any scene that features Morris Day talking to someone, anyone, else is teetering on the edge of comedy greatness - I genuinely now wish that Morris Day was in every other movie ever made. Prince getting emotional as his parents fight and his father gets abusive, Prince being cool and enigmatic, Prince treating his band members like shit. In fact, almost every scene with Prince that doesn't have him playing music is entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

However, the acting and storyline are secondary elements here. As with any movie of this type, it's the music that makes or breaks the film and this soundtrack is a beauty. You have the title track, of course, but you also get "Let's Go Crazy", "When Doves Cry", "Father's Song" and "I Would Die 4 U" to name a few (of the best). On top of those great Prince tracks just try to keep your feet from moving around while you enjoy two numbers performed by The Time ("Jungle Love" and "The Bird"). I'd only ever heard of Morris Day and The Time when they were mentioned, and appeared, in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, but now I'm a big fan and I'll be checking out more of their music.

If you don't like Prince at all then don't check out Purple Rain. It's a star vehicle and it plays out exactly as any star vehicle should. The rest of the cast are a mixed bunch, and the leading man can't really act all that well (though he's not atrocious), but this is about throwing a bunch of great songs together and creating moments that allow them to be given centre stage. Give it a chance one day if you're feeling particularly funky.


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