Purple Haze

purplerain_japanI will start by saying: it’s been years since I watched Purple Rain. With my combination of ADHD and my pre-dementia (just joking?), it was like watching it for the first time. I will start by asking: WHAT THE FUCK? I did not remember the acting being so horrible. The father, Clarence Williams III, was the only believable actor. The plot is about the Kid, played by Prince, an aspiring songwriter/musician. The Kid is struggling not to repeat the abusive and destructive behavior he witnesses from his father. While battling his father’s abusive relationship with his mother, the Kid, meets another aspiring musician, Apollonia, played by Apollonia Kotero. They have an immediate and intense attraction to each other. Their attraction is chronicled through Purple Rain’s kick ass soundtrack. Unfortunately, Prince is a man-child, who is paranoid and disturbed like his father. Prince is constantly mistreating Apollonia and the female members in his band, The Revolution. He is antagonistic, rude, and downright mean to the ladies in The Revolution, Lisa and Wendy. All they want is for him to listen to the songs that they wrote for their band. Prince is battling several personal and professional demons. Morris, played by Morris Day, is the Kid’s musical nemesis. Morris is trying to get Apollonia to join his girl band (later deemed Apollonia 6). Morris wants Apollonia 6 to take over the Kid’s nightly gig. The story is told through Prince’s real-life soundtrack, Purple Rain.

There are too many perspectives to write this review from: psychological, feminist, and/or artistic/nostalgic. I will give a brief description of the first two perspectives, but to keep it positive, I will write the full review from an artistic/nostalgic perspective.

If from a psychological perspective: there are some serious dysfunctional/abnormal behaviors, and mental disorders showcased. Because of my psychology background, I hereby order the family into some intensive family, marriage, and individual counseling. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson would say that the Kid did not properly go through the stages of development. The Kid is a man-child that throws tantrums through song and pelvic thrusts.

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Purple Rain (1984)

PurpleRainStarring Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Clarence Williams III, Jerome Benton, Jill Jones, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby ‘Z’ Rivkin, Matt Fink, Brown Mark

Directed by Albert Magnoli

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


As much as I love Prince — and let me tell you: I LOVE PRINCE! — I really wasn’t looking forward to re-watching Purple Rain. I saw it “not too long ago,” which to me is about two years ago. I usually wait longer than that, as I’m the type of person to just forge ahead and watch movies I’ve never seen before. Despite this bias, re-watching Purple Rain offered a lot more entertainment than I had expected it would. I knew the live footage was dope, and nothing has changed that. But what I didn’t count on was achieving a new respect for the story that Purple Rain tells.

On the surface, Purple Rain is a vanity project, an extended music video, a way to broaden Prince’s fan base. But what those distinctions don’t explain are the multiple instances of domestic violence and the other complex themes present. These themes show that a simple extended music video was not Prince’s intention at all. The story connecting his songs is challenging and fraught with emotional distress. It’s an incredibly bold move, and a lesser artist couldn’t have pulled it off. Can you imagine if the Justin Bieber movie had the balls to do something like that? Purple Rain is so much more than an extended music video, it’s also an experimental musical drama that achieves everything it sets out to. In today’s day where the studios are more worried about offending someone than creating something truly unique, Prince’s Purple Rain stands out as a true piece of art.

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Mini-Review: Purple Rain (1984)

Starring Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Clarence Williams III, Jerome Benton, Jill Jones, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby ‘Z’ Rivkin, Matt Fink, Brown Mark

Directed by Albert Magnoli

Expectations: High. I am a newly converted fan of Prince and hoping for something amazing.

threestar


In the grand scheme of things, Purple Rain isn’t a very good film. The story is really loose and the acting is questionable from a good many of the players, including Prince himself, but don’t be discouraged because Purple Rain is amazing. The live footage is some of the best filmed concert footage I’ve ever seen and it is impossible to tear your eyes away from Prince’s  incredible stage presence. The stage lighting is also very impressive, washing every shot in a multi-colored sea of wonder. The opening scene, featuring the song Let’s Go Crazy, is worth the price of admission alone between the intense stage performance, clever storytelling and kinetic editing. Softcore fans will also be pleased with the extended and explicit love scene between Prince and Appolonia. I kept thinking they were going to cut away but they don’t, and questions of taste aside, that shit was sensual.

The story seeks to connect the songs from the Purple Rain album to a loose plot and it surprisingly works well enough to make this enjoyable, but it rarely transcends the overall feel of being an extended music video. When it does, it does so very well and the breakdown of Prince’s parents and his frustration with his love of Appolonia plays beautifully up to the final scenes when Prince busts out the epic song Purple Rain on stage. The sheer amount of emotion in the lyrics and the music burst forth and are given new context from the surrounding story, all without killing what backstory I had built up for the song in my own listenings. That is to say, the song alone conjures up the same emotions as the film seeks to connect to it, so the film’s backstory only solidifies my intense feelings for the song.

Purple Rain is an emotional film that will reward Prince fans and possibly convert some new ones as well. I don’t see how anyone could deny the sheer force of nature that Prince becomes when he steps on stage.

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