Thursday, June 4, 2015
PINK FLOYD THE WALL
(August 1982, U.S.)
This is going to be one of those occasional film posts where my content relies more on my own personal experiences rather than the film itself. Of course, anyone reading this post who went to high school and/or college in the 1980s will know exactly what I'm talking about! Director Alan Parker's PINK FLOYD THE WALL is not just film, but a stunning visual and listening experience like no other. There's virtually no dialogue and the plot is very thin, if not incomprehensible. It's a full force ninety minute continuous rock video of one of the greatest classic rock albums ever written and it's probably not for everyone! You either know Pink Floyd's landmark 1979 rock album or you don't! You either understand founding band member and bassist Roger Waters' meanings and concepts behind the story of a confined and alienated rock star who's driven into insanity and self destruction while constructing a wall around his existence to protect himself from the world around him as semi-autobiographical of Waters' own personal feelings and experiences of alienation and isolation following Pink Floyd's 1977 Animals Tour or you don't! In short, you either love PINK FLOYD THE WALL or you don't! Think I'm overstating things a bit here? Well, take a look at some of these iconic animated film images by Gerald Scarfe and tell me if you think they're for everybody...
Some pretty heavy stuff, yes? And all done before the advent of computer generated imaging, and looking great nonetheless! But it occurs to me that my convictions above may not be completely carved in stone. This film can be an acquired taste if one has the patience and appreciation for the art behind it. That in mind, let's begin with personal story number one in which I first discovered PINK FLOYD THE WALL. In early 1980, when I was in the process of the seventh grade of middle school, I had no idea who Pink Floyd was. All I knew was that every once in a while I would see "Pink Floyd The Wall" written in white chalk on the red bricks of the school (I suppose that was considered vandalism?) and there was a song playing on FM radio that went, "We don't need no education!" You see, I was still in my soft rock and pop stage that included Billy Joel, Blondie and Hall & Oates, so Pink Floyd was still an alien band to me. Cut ahead four years to when I'm sixteen years-old and I finally decide to rent the VHS tape of PINK FLOYD THE WALL based on no other reason than I'd heard it was supposed to be a good movie. Ninety minutes later, I had no fucking clue what the hell I'd just watched! Nonetheless, I rewound the tape and watched it a second time right there and then! You see, for me, incomprehensibility doesn't necessarily mean a lack of brilliant art in a film. I ended up watching the movie as many times as I could before having to return the tape to my local video store. What can I say? I was hooked! My new love for this great film lead to my discovery of the album THE WALL, then THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, then ANIMALS, then THE FINAL CUT, and in short, I've been a loyal fan of Pink Floyd ever since, as they're my favorite rock band of all time!
In college, PINK FLOYD THE WALL was one of the most popular films ever to play the midnight movie madness circuit. When it played across the street from my dorm building, I was there every time! When I finally obtained a copy of the film for myself (by copy, I mean I'd done a tape-to-tape job using two VCRs!), I'd play it just about every weekend whenever I'd come home from a night of drinking and wanted to continue my madness (because this is what guys do at the end of a Friday night when it becomes pretty clear that they're not going to get laid!). It wasn't too long until I virtually became known on my dorm floor as the guy who was a Pink Floyd addict and loved playing THE WALL (hey, we all have our reputations!). And it's this reputation that leads me to personal story number two - it was at the end of my junior year at college and I decided I wanted to give my roommate something that he'd always remember me by because I was pretty sure I'd never see him again. What did I give him? You guessed it! A brand new, factory-sealed VHS copy of PINK FLOYD THE WALL packaged in a big-ass MGM gatefold video box. As he held it in his hand and smiled and gave me a big "thumbs up", I took a picture so I'd have something to remember him by (thanks, Scott!) and I still have that picture somewhere in a photo album. Today, I'm sure that video tape is long, but if he ever watches the film anymore, I hope he still remembers me and some of our crazy college times together!
PINK FLOYD THE WALL may be the only time a popular concept rock album has ever been put on film and succeeded. If you ever saw the film versions of TOMMY (1975) and SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1979), then you know very well just how awful some attempts can turn out! It also reminds me that today's world of music doesn't offer us the true rock music that once existed over decades past. It's sad to think that the musical styles of these middle school pubescent little shits have taken over the music world! Where is the true rock album anymore?? Or as Pink Floyd sings in THE WALL, "Is there anybody out there?"
Teacher: "What have we here, laddie? Mysterious scribblings? A secret code? No! Poems, no less! Poems, everybody! The laddie reckons himself a poet!"
(reading poem from Pink's book)
Teacher: "Money, get back / I'm all right, Jack / Keep your hands off my stack / New car / Caviar / Four-star daydream / Think I'll buy me a football team."
(slams the book onto Pink's desk)
Teacher: "Absolute rubbish, laddie! Get on with your work!"