For a movie with so much wrong with it, why is it so good? In a word: Prince. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to see him live, then you know all other performers are second best. If you haven’t, then here’s your chance right around the corner; he’s touring in 2014, first in Europe then in North America. Why should you see this guy? For starters, he’s one of the greatest guitar players on the planet. If you need proof, take a moment and listen to his solo on My Guitar Gently Weeps played at the Rock and Roll hall of Fame’s induction for George Harrison. Next reason to see Prince would be his backup band. He’s played with people ranging from Sheila E to Maceo Parker. Lastly, he’s got the songs and plenty of them.
And this is the reason why Purple Rain is so watchable, it’s all about the music and the performance footage. The rest of the movie has some serious problems though. At this time I’d like to say, our hearts go out to poor Apollonia; in the film she’s humiliated, beaten, paraded around in lingerie and a cape, and forced to sing a song called Sex Shooter with lyrics:
I need you to get me off
I’m your bomb getting ready to explode
I need you to get me off
Be your slave do anything I’m told
I’m a sex shooter
Shootin’ love in your direction
Thirty years later, and we still feel for you kid. Prince has since turned his back on his overtly licentious and misogynist past but in 1984 controversy was still a major aspect to his persona. In the movie, he portrays a brooding volatile genius who still lives at home with his feuding parents and likes getting away from it all by taking sun dappled nature rides on his purple motorcycle. Prince dressed in high heels, a pirate shirt and crushed velvet bolero pants having an introspective moment beside a shimmering lake is truly a haunting image.
The plot revolves around the price of fame, how to break a family cycle of doubt and abuse, the effects of an androgyny bomb being dropped on the city of Minneapolis and a tension-less rivalry between Prince and Morris Day for the final headlining spot at the club First Avenue. It boils down to the final performance where each band brings their big guns. Are we seriously expected to buy that a song like The Bird by the Time is in anyway a threat. (Spoiler alert) Prince counters with Purple fricking Rain. In the history of devastating defeats, this one is up there.
Other miscellaneous things to look for while watching Purple Rain:
The mad choreography from the crowd during Jungle Love by the Time
The deadpan delivery of the bands being announced.
Adam Ant Lurch – you’ll know him when you see him.
The note on the stairs during Darling Nikki – that takes planning.
In the end, I’m not sure if Purple Rain is a musical or a movie with music in it or a performance with some movie in it. I kind of differentiate them by; if the music itself moves the plot forward then it’s a musical, otherwise it’s just a movie with music in it or random songs kind of tied together by a loose story. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. Should you watch this film?- there are worse ways to spend your time. Should you get the soundtrack?- indeed you should. If Prince is coming to your part of the world in the near future, should you drop everything and go see him?- most definitely.