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THROWBACK CLASSIX: 'Purple Rain'

by Eli Kroes

I can appreciate a true 'classic' film as well. In these reviews, you'll get my take on the supposedly untouchable cinematic masterpieces of eras past. Films that have stood the test of time but might be overlooked nowadays.

'Purple Rain' - 1984, Directed by Albert Magnoli

For the first classic film review, I'm tackling one where the soundtrack is much more beloved than the film itself. And why not? It's Prince, for God's sake! I feel like nobody can dispute Prince's artistry, even when taking into account his bizarre behavior and multiple misfires. The 'Purple Rain' soundtrack is one of the high points of his career, but I'm always surprised by the number of people who haven't seen the film. 

To be fair, it's a ridiculous movie, matched only in 80's-ness by things like 'Risky Business' and 'Weird Science.' But, if you can look past the silly outfits and slightly misogynistic dialog, you'll find an entertainment powerhouse. Not only do you get a window into the overblown theatrical nature of a mid-80's Prince concert, but you get to see Prince being Prince for almost two hours. No, he's not a fantastic actor, but that doesn't matter because he's good at being Prince. 

The plot seems to be slightly autobiographical, but written from Prince's own warped worldview. This film is exactly how he sees himself...a suave but troubled ladies-man whose music trumps all the unbecoming aspects of his personality. Basically, he can do whatever he wants and people will always eventually come around because he's awesome. A fair assumption, in my mind. I mean, we still listen to the guy even after all his anti-internet weirdness and name change silliness.

So, Prince (aka 'The Kid') is struggling to make it out of the Minneapolis scene while also dealing with an insane, abusive father and other competing bands, namely Morris Day and The Time. And who knew Morris Day was such a funny, charismatic guy? I'd say he steals the show through and through with his over-the-top pimp persona. But, it's always laid out clearly that Morris and his band make feel-good music that doesn't have the depth of Prince and the Revolution's material. I mean, Prince will write a song about exactly how he's feeling, and play it on the spot, and somehow his band doesn't need to rehearse to do this. 

And yes, some suspension of disbelief is required, because the band plays the titular track without ANY prior notice, and pulls it off perfectly. But whatever, it's basically a musical, so it's fair that folks break into song without screwing it up. 

But the music isn't even the best part of the film in my opinion. Yes, it's a great album, but I'd take 'Sign O' The Times' over it any day. What's really great is Prince's totally-80's one-liners, especially to costar Apollonia Kotero. He's so rude, and everybody just eats it up. Who can forget the 'Lake Minnetonka' scene? 

Above all, this is just a good-time film. Sure, there's some spousal abuse, and yes Morris Day throws a lady into a dumpster for yelling at him (and it's HILARIOUS) but over all, this is just pure entertainment. 

If you've passed this film over for whatever reason (like if you're afraid it can't live up to the album itself) SEE IT at once, because you'll have fun.

Also, there IS an 'unofficial' sequel called 'Graffiti Bridge'  that seems to be almost completely unknown, probably because it's ridiculous and both written and directed by Prince himself. Of course, for me, that's two reasons TO watch it. A review, assuredly, will follow.


Photo by Coyau.