Purple Rain (1984) Dir – Albert Magnoli
Purple Rain is technically a feature-length movie; its running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes,was shot on professional film stock it has a semblance of a plot or narrative, has a slick polish to it and it was released by a major studio (Warner Brothers) back in 1984. It is a pop star vehicle, possibly the pop star vehicle; an efficient, stylish delivery system to sell as many records as possible whilst placing it’s star on an iconic pedestal.
It is also essentially a glorified home movie, a strange, intensely personal project populated by Prince’s friends, musical collaborators, shot in his hometown of Minneapolis, with a central conceit that is borders on autobiographical – the sensitive, misunderstood, charismatic, talented rock star known as ‘The Kid’ trying to escape his troubled family life and win(?) the heart of a beautiful singer called Apollonia. This self mythology dreamt up in the mind of a teenage boy locked away in his bedroom with only his music and his instruments for company; an intense diary entry of grand self realisation splashed up on the big screen for all to see.
Prince was like many of us a gawky kid teased and made to feel like an outsider and Purple Rain is both a glorious revenge on his detractors and a celebration of transcendence and self realisation through his music; a way to create and inhabit his own artistic universe where he could truly be himself.
There are several supposedly romantic scenes between Prince and Apollonia throughout where it seems the diminutive one expresses an odd mixture of contempt, amusement and desire towards this clearly smitten lady. He withholds, teases and even slaps her around at one point. As the film draws its characters as such broad archetypes, it’s fair to say this erratic, somewhat misogynistic behaviour is down to his troubled father’s influence whom we see treat ‘the kid’s’ mother in a similar fashion as opposed to any issues with Prince’s performance.
The film works on a pure emotional, musical level and of course without the music, there would be nothing at all and like a musical, the story is there in each number. When The Kid/Prince plays with his band The Revolution his electric performances function are a communication and exorcism; the shy teenager and little boy lost unleashing everything of himself, overwhelming all who are witness.
Above, The Kid and his band seduce the audience with a stark & sexy confessional called ‘The Beautiful Ones’ and it perfectly captures the adolescent fantasy of being a performer; the sublime moment of victory shy kids daydream about. When they can finally show the world what they have been up to and at last, tell that one special boy/girl/man/woman their true self, how they feel, To lay bare their soul in public and finally achieve transcendence; for a few fleeting moments, worship, love and acceptance are finally theirs.