Wednesday, October 22, 2014

4. Purple Rain (1984)

Code-name: MPLS

Director: Albert Magnoli
Writers: William Blinn & Albert Magnoli
Composers: Prince and The Revolution, John L. Nelson and Michel Colombier

Notable Awards and Nominations:

OSCAR- Best Original Song Score- Prince
[worth noting, this award was "retired" after this year]
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Original Song- "When Doves Cry" by Prince
[granted, he lost out to "I just called to say I love you" by Stevie Wonder, but STILL...]

Grammy- Best Instrumental Score Album for TV/Film- Prince, John L. Nelson, Wendy & Lisa

[note: I'm only including the following because Prince has amassed some Razzies over the years]
nomination- Razzie- Worst New Star- Patricia "Apollonia" Kotero
nomination- Razzie- Worst Original Song- "Sex Shooter" by Apollonia 6 (written by Prince ala his pseudonym Jamie Starr)


[The Star]
Prince as The Kid
[The Actors]
Patricia Kotero as Apollonia*
Olga Karlatos as The Kid's mother
Clarence Williams III as The Kid's father, Francis L

[The Musicians- all playing themselves]

The Revolution
Wendy Melvoin
Lisa Coleman
Bobby Z
Brown Mark
Dr. [Matt] Fink
Jill Jones

The Time
Morris Day
Jerome Benton
Jesse Johnson
Jellybean Johnson
Paul Peterson
Gerald E. Hubbard Jr.
Mark Cardenas

Apollonia 6
Susan Moonsie
Brenda Bennett
*(also, obviously part of Apollonia 6)

Fair Warning: Spoilers and I predict this entry will run very long
An Introduction Unlike Any Other
My earliest exposure to Prince was the "1999" video, one of several my dad recorded off MTV in 1987...the visuals stuck with me as did the message (we watched it around Y2K time) but it didn't plant the seed I'd go on to follow years later (as was the case with "Hazy Shade of Winter" and "Less than Zero"...another LONG life-changing story).

My first Prince songs were the combination of "I would Die 4 U" and "Baby I'm a star," at the back of a mix CD my dad put together of Go-Go bars songs. The first song: blew my mind! The second: I felt ran a little too long. We had the "Purple Rain" album, but again, I didn't follow through.

If all that wasn't enough, had it not been for my dad's insistence, my 7-year journey with Prince might not have happened and I'd probably be a different person than I am now. (More on that later).
I have this thing where I dislike watching new movies when they're already in progress. I mean, that's understandable, right? Why get into the middle of something with no idea of what's going on? Even today that's STILL true :P Just this once, I made an exception.

I remembered a handful of events. I remembered being struck by Prince's neo-Mozart vibe. The strongest memory I had: those two songs being performed in the final 10 minutes of the film. It was a literal jaw-dropping over-the-moon-in-love moment. Never forgot it.
Two performances later (American Idol and GMA in 2006), it took the SuperBowl HalfTime show for me to FINALLY do my research on Prince. I returned home for spring break with a list of albums I wanted to get... and I knew I had to rent "Purple Rain" at Blockbuster so I can finally see the whole movie.

If I weren't dedicating a whole blog entry to this, I'd stop here with the cliché "..and the rest is history."

First Impression

Yeah, I think it's safe to say that this movie blew my goddam mind. I watched it in the privacy of my bedroom on my PS2. The music, of course, was amazing. Loved all the musical numbers. Got invested in the characters, felt my heart pound in the dramatic moments.
Then I heard the actual song for the first time. I still remember my mom coming into my room prior to dinnertime and saw that I was a hot mess, tears streaming down my face. It was a powerful moment.
I think within that time frame, I watched the movie 6 times because I didn't know the next time I'd be able to watch it... I think within that first year, I saw it 30+ times.... so yeah.

In a Nutshell

Prince plays The Kid, a struggling musician in Minneapolis who plays regularly at First Avenue with his band, The Revolution. Ultimately, he hopes to "make it" in the business so he'll be able to leave the abusive household he grew up in.
Morris Day, the charismatic leader of rival band The Time, hopes to muscle The Kid [i.e. his biggest competition] out of the club. Part of his master plan involves putting together a female singing group.
Also with aspirations to succeed in music, Apollonia is the new girl in town who quickly finds herself caught up in a love triangle between the two men.

All the while, The Kid deals with other conflicts. This Includes fighting against his inner demons [not wanting to turn into his father] and buffering insistences from the girls in his band [Lisa & Wendy] to add their music to the performances.

The Soundtrack and Performances

Save for the fact we miss out on music from The Time, Apollonia 6 and Dez Dickerson, and the fact I'm a little biased, this is the best movie soundtrack EVER. All 9 songs are well-executed and amazing (well, it's Prince, what do you expect?). The configuration is as tight as it gets. At its core, we have rock and pop, everything from ballads to laments to kick-ass party anthems.

One fun fact: we have "Darling Nikki" (track 5) to thank for Parental Advisory labels. Tipper Gore heard her daughter singing along to the risqué opening verse of this song and she went on a political rampage to keep other kids away from similar "filth."

It's hard to pick one favorite because they're all so good. The title track, of course, is one of the best power ballads ever. "The Beautiful Ones" is Passion and at times, a bit of a tearjerker. "When Doves Cry"... need I go on?

With 4 exceptions (I saw videos for "When Doves Cry" and "Let's go crazy" previously), I heard all of these songs for the first time in the context of the film. So naturally that's the first place my mind goes when I listen back.

Probably what makes the quality so great is the majority were recorded live. Specifically, on August 3rd 1983 at First Avenue, Wendy's live debut with The Revolution. Except for "Darling Nikki" (which Prince recorded by himself in the studio, as he often does to reach the peak of his ability), all of the performance numbers used these "live" tracks.

All of these performances are great, but my personal favorite is the often overlooked "Computer Blue."

It originally existed in a much longer capacity (try 12+ minutes!) but had to be cut down for a more cohesive album. Plus, the Prince/Apollonia duet "Take Me with U" needed the space more. "Darling Nikki" and "Purple Rain" overshadow it quite a bit due to shock value or overall excellence. I actually watched "Computer Blue" online by itself because I really love the choreography. Don't ask me why, I just do :shrug:

As for the other performance numbers, "Sex Shooter" by Apollonia 6 is strictly ear-candy (not so much singing ability) but love the look of it (costumes and choreography).
"The Bird" is one of the few memories I retained from that first encounter. My dad shook his head to it, saying how stupid a dance it was. :P I still LOL about that.
"Jungle Love," I really enjoy and still loathe the fact the version found on The Time's "Ice Cream Castles" album was recorded in the studio and not quite as sharp.

"Modernaire" by Dez Dickerson (when he left The Revolution after being with the band for years, Wendy took his place) is short and had pre-planned choreography ala the director Al Magnoli that only serves as a segue to the next scene, but a great 80's track nonetheless. It was officially released for the first time a year after becoming a fan.

This is also one of those rare cases where I actually sit through the ending credits--- because we revisit all the music again in the form of a mash-up.

The Acting

However momentous an occasion this was in my life and the life-changing results that followed, this gets my #4 spot because of some poor acting  :shrug: seeing as we're dealing with non-actors, that's to be expected.
For everyone (cast, crew and fans), the biggest standout was Clarence Williams III. Word is that the musicians came to the set whenever The Kid's father had a scene.

With almost everyone else, it feels like they are reading off a script. But again, this movie isn't about that so much as the heart and emotion that comes with the story being told.

Of the non-actors, Prince handled himself the best. Reading the script is one thing, but in the moments that count, he has his share of powerful moments. Most of which are actually non-verbal. How he holds himself on screen. The basement scenes, where a lot of drama happens, he draws us in with his emotions and brings them out in us as well. The first time I saw the movie, the aftermath of his father's suicide attempt freaked me out... how the music is so intense until it explodes, followed by The Kid himself.

Morris Day does give him a run for his money, though. Sure, he's about as egoistical as The Kid is, but he has incredible magnetism as a lady's man. Plus the duo of him and Jerome Benton is freaking hilarious. "The Password" sketch has you wondering if you'd stumbled into an Abbott & Costello routine. Definitely some great on-stage chemistry.

When Prince's previous girlfriend Denise Matthews (then known as Vanity) walked off the movie, Patricia Kotero was the only girl to audition for the female lead not wearing the "Vanity 6" look (namely, leather, stilettos and lingerie) and her glowing personality won her the role. Granted, she's not the best actress on set, but she's beautiful and so sweet that you want to root for her as much as the male leads. [What I hadn't found out as of yet is if Prince dubbed her Apollonia after Michael Corleone's ill-fated first wife in "The Godfather"]

Commentary and "Autobiography"

By this point I realize this post is running long.
Thanks to anyone who stuck with it so far...
Believe it or not, I am still holding back on this entry :P

This was Al Magnoli's first directing gig after graduating from film school at USC and I gotta give my props to him. He did an amazing job on this.
The commentary includes him, Producer Bob Cavallo and Director of Photography Donald E. Thorin. All kinds of "trade secrets" from Behind-The-Scenes-- you know, if you're into that sort of thing. This was the first movie where I listened to any commentary and got super invested in the making of.

Part of this movie's lure (other than Prince's screen presence) for me was the fact it was semi-autobiographical. Much was based on true events he went through at First Avenue, with his band... even with his father. Granted, the domestic violence was a Hollywood add-in, but two instances that did ring true: the quote "I would die for you" and the "never get married" scene.
All fans have their theories about what is true and what isn't and there's simply not enough room for to go into it.

But two things worthy of mention: the conflict between Prince, Wendy & Lisa (which were on and off until 1986 when he disbanded The Revolution) and the rivalry between Prince and Morris Day (granted, they're friendlier with one another in reality, good friends even).

The Purple Effect

I grew up on a lot of bubblegum pop. Some of the first CDs I bought were Britney Spears and boybands. So I really didn't know what to expect from actual musicians, which my folks had greater respect for.
I simply found Prince mesmerizing, like he had me in a spell. When he performs, there's nothing like it and his opposite off-stage persona never fails to intrigue me.

Of course I didn't, for a moment, had any idea what I was getting into once I dove into the purple abyss. Didn't realize how risqué his performances were, how raunchy his music was. I didn't grow up in a strict Puritan household :P but my attitude towards anything remotely sexual and explicit was simply "run in the other direction."
The fact was that I had to grow a thicker skin and I came out the other side a stronger person. Cussing doesn't bother me as much as it used to and the occasional movie sex scene doesn't either... just as long as it has bearing on the plot.
Ultimately, knowing that most of his music was handled with artistic integrity helped a lot.

Not surprisingly, my musical catalogue greatly increased. Most of it was Prince's music. Over time, I became interested in members of The Revolution. I fell in love with Wendy & Lisa's music (their self-titled album and Girl Bros especially). I checked into Morris Day and The Time after seeing their "Ice Cream Castles" video.
...I wound up going to see Morris Day and The Time in concert a couple years ago. They played all the songs from their 4 studio albums from back in the day and it was easily the best concert I'd been to. And I'll admit that I developed a secondary crush on Morris Day at one point as well.

I'm still waiting to see Prince in concert and to visit his hometown Minneapolis. If only to walk the streets he walked, breathe the same air... and I know for a fact a good friend I developed online correspondence through Prince is dying to have that experience with me.

For the record, I have close to 30 Prince albums and greatly enjoy almost all of them :P

And yeah, my bedroom also has purple paint... we had a brand new Toll Bros house with blank walls, I needed color and made that decision.

[Also, it should be noted: I LOVE this period of his career, but I HATE that it's the only thing people remember him for... you guys really need to widen your gaze... Or at the very least check into his new albums, "Art Official Age" and "Plectrum Electrum" (the latter featuring his new girl band 3rd Eye Girl), they're pretty fantastic]
 I had so much music of his that I had to get an iPod, something I fought against for years. Currently, the only music of his that I have on there are Purple Rain tracks and his two new albums.

I have Prince, ultimately, to thank for my blogging. When I began all this, I joined a messageboard site so I could learn about him from his knowledgeable, more experienced fanbase. I gained some notoriety for my passionate posts, but over time, I felt like that wasn't enough space. So I started a blog where I could document album reviews and miletones I made with Prince.

Google "DreamyPopRoyalty" and you'll find my old postings.
[broken down, that's how I feel about Prince... "Dreamy" is his spell-binding aura, "Pop" is one of many genres he covers and "Royalty" speaks for itself]
I don't discuss Prince nearly as much as I used to between 2007-2010 [aka "the Honeymoon period"], but when something newsworthy happens, I will bring it up ;)

Coming Soon

The movie that put Robert Downey Jr. on my radar

No comments: