Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982), or Which One’s Pink?

19 05 2009

I’m a Pink Floyd fan. Always have been, really. Ever since I heard “Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun” I was hooked on not only their sound, but all progressive music. It opened my eyes to a new way of thinking, a new way of experiencing music. They have always been one of my favorites, and I’ll always have at least one Pink Floyd record in my all the way up until Dark Side of The Moon, where they lost the prog spirit. That is where I stop following them as a fan, and more as a curious bystander pondering a car crash. And Dark Side was only 1973! So, by 1979, when The Wall was released, I really have no admiration left for them as fans of their earlier, more daring works. And today’s movie, The Wall, made in 1982, has even less spark and verve!

It’s a stylized account of the autobiographical album, which follows a young rock star named Pink (HAAAA!!!) and his slow mental breakdown and subsequent recession from a social existence. We focus on Pink’s harsh upbringing in post-war Britain to his existence as a jaded rock star and his eventual retreat into himself as life just becomes too much for him. He constantly fantasizes and daydreams about his past and current state, and often times those dreams turn into haunting nightmares. He falls in and out of consciousness, and the audience is never sure just what is real and what is imagined. With his wife estranged from him, and his stage manager a lackey for his physical addictions to drugs and women, things seem pretty bleak for ol’ Pink. And when he begins to construct the wall around himself, there might be no hope left at all…

It’s a long music video, essentially, for the massive double album about Roger Waters’s mental collapse and rejuvenation. For every minute of dialog, there’s four minutes of a song, so I actually gave 95% of the plot away right there for you. You’re welcome. It’s really a showcase for conceptual filmmaking rather than a standard narrative, so don’t look for a single thread to tie it all together. Its only real unifying idea is the inner anguish of Roger Waters, which, while artistically intriguing, gets real old, real fast.

Part of it is the songs encompassing the entire plot, tone, and voice of the movie. The songs, which are the entire point of the damn film, are deceivingly banal. I found the lyrics, when I was younger, to be insightful and the songs to be of truly high caliber. As I grew older and a bit more refined, however, it occurred to me that The Wall is a very whiny, pedantic work whose only high spots herald back to the days when they were bolder and more willing to take chances. If you happen to be a teenager who has yet to realize that you will die one day and that life is more difficult than high school, I can see the appeal. But, for the adult in all of us, songs like “Goodbye, Cruel World” and “Don’t Leave Me Now” ring with that particularly disgusting peel of “Why me?”, the pitiful yelp which has turned us off to characters since the days when Hamlet couldn’t decide to kill himself or not.

When it comes to the actual film, I found Bob Geldof, who played Pink, to be a welcome addition to this otherwise dreary picture. While he doesn’t have more than a handful of lines, his acting style lends itself to the music video format, if that makes any sense. Like an opera singer, his actions are bombastic and obvious to the eye, somewhat timed to the beats of a rock and roll outfit. No real standouts other than him, as the rest of the cast is filled out with character actors and a young Bob Hoskins as a total schlub.

There is animation here, all created by Gerald Scarfe, and it is impressive. You don’t see too much hand-drawn animation anymore, so what there is left I enjoy a great deal. It’s standard Roger Waters subject matter (i.e. the bombing of Britain, death, woe is me, etc.) and while it seems a little flat by today’s high standards, there is more emotion in the ever-changing color pallet of Scarfe than in the entire 90 minutes of Over The Hedge.

It’s not really that good, and I wouldn’t recommend the film on a whole. It has some definite high points, including the spectacular animated finale, but I found myself wanting to be more intellectually engaged by the group that gave the world A Saucerful of Secrets. It’s not horrible, per se, it just doesn’t live up to any realistic creative expectations. And why make an artistic film about personal struggle if there’s no substance? What does that say about you as a person? I’m looking at you, Roger Waters… I give Pink Floyd: The Wall 5 Over The Hedges out of 10.

Tomorrow, I finish up Kevan’s requests by watching Suspiria!

And, on a side note, what is the name of this movie? It reads Pink Floyd The Wall, but that sounds rather idiotic, don’t you think? It sounds like someone at a party playing a game where they have to blurt out an answer really fast without any spaces or punctuation. That’s why we have colons and semicolons, guys! Do you want the world to look like this:

Breakin’ 2 Electric Bugaloo!

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time!

Howling 4 The Original Nightmare!

Porktheotherwhitemeat!!!!

Still think excluding punctuation is cool?!?!

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