Okay, so I finally saw Purple Rain — a couple of decades after it came out. I always meant to see it, but … I’ve been busy. I was certainly a Prince fan back in 1984, but for some reason I never got around to seeing this movie. Until tonight.
I was amused that it was presented under the aegis of something called the “African Heritage Network” — and that it has been deemed a “movie classic” (at least by hosts Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis). Yep. That Appolonia sure is some classic “actress” — not to mention one fine “singer.” (Somehow I’m thinking it wasn’t either of those attributes that got her into Prince’s “inner circle” in the first place, if you know what I mean — and who couldn’t possibly NOT know what I mean?!)
So. The movie. … wow. I’m having horrifying ’80s flashbacks. Yes, people I knew dressed like that. *I* dressed like that. Sort of. I had that hair, anyway. And I personally witnessed those eyebrows. That make-up. Those puffy shirts. Uh-huh — we looked really silly.
Basically, my responses to the movie:
1) Prince is not a good actor. But he’s a fantastic performer. On stage. In front of a microphone. Not down in a basement, struggling with inner demons. … And not talking.
2) Morris Day, on the other hand, is FANTASTIC!!! I love Morris Day. The scene with him vacuuming is hilarious. He is,without question, the only person in the movie who appears to be able to act. Just so I’m clear on this: I LOVE MORRIS DAY!!!
The thing about that era of Princey-ness that strikes a person is just how busy his little outfits are. Man — there is a LOT of activity going on there: you got your ruffles, your leather, your scarves, your shoulderpads, your studs, your sparkly things, your gloves, your high heels, your sunglasses, your curls and, of course, all that eyeliner. (How long did it take him to get dressed back then?) He looks damned good (not that he doesn’t also look damned silly at the same time), but, I have to say, I feared for his life every time “The Kid” hopped on that Bat-Cycle of his — I thought he ran a good chance of getting a ruffled cuff, a ringlet, or one of those high heels caught in a spoke … and there he’d be, a little purple spot on a Minnesota blacktop — just like poor Isadora Duncan. He IS a sort of overly self-conscious, preening, funky version of Isadora Duncan — if Isadora Duncan had been a Sly Stone/James Brown/Jimi Hendrix acolyte with a Napoleon complex and a really cool falsetto, that is.
As badly-written and acted a movie as it was, there’s no denying the charisma, the sexuality and the talent leaping out of Prince’s every pore. I always thought it was funny when people (i.e. men) would describe him as “androgynous” — a word I suppose they used because he wore things that most men don’t normally wear (but women don’t wear a lot of that stuff, either). A better word might have been “foppish” or “dandy-ish,” because … seriously … who would have EVER not known Prince was a man? The moustache was always a dead give-away, for one thing. Prince just wants to be the center of attention. Besides, ALL of us looked like idiots back then when we would have sworn we were the coolest people to walk the face of the earth. Prince was just the same way — only magnified a million times. (And, of course, I think he actually WAS the coolest person to walk the face of the earth back then!)
So, anyway, as a movie — not good. As a performance film — much, much, much better. I even got all excited hearing the opening strains to “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry.”
Wow. I’m really old.