As the perpetual young'en on the staff, it only seems fitting that I start chronicling my encounters with whatever classic or otherwise noteworthy titles that I'm just now dusting off and catching up with. For the first in this series, I find myself tackling a double feature of '70s/'80s rock kitsch - Stunt Rock and Purple Rain. Our local arthouse has a bi-monthly 'cult classics' series, and sure enough, they were scheduled to have a 35mm print of what I'd always just known as 'that Prince movie.' I couldn't make it, but a friend who did was adamant about how ridiculously entertaining it was. "Ejaculating guitars!" seemed to be a particular point of awe, and since he went ahead and promptly purchased Purple Rain on Blu-ray, I decided to satisfy my curiosity (after all, how many movies these days feature ejaculating guitars?).
As is the case with just anything older than I am, I feared for how much cultural osmosis might've take away from the experience. After all, when I think of Prince, I think of Dave Chappelle; when I think of Morris Day, I think of Jay & Silent Bob; and when I think of crowd-spraying sexuality, I still think of the Jonas Brothers. And I can't think of the last time I was so familiar with a soundtrack for a movie that I'd never actually seen.
At any rate, Prince plays "The Kid," an up-and-coming Minneapolis musician vying for the love of both his audience and a young singer named Apollonia (played by Apollonia Kotero, natch) opposite the likes of Morris Day and his band, The Time. Oddly enough, The Kid and Morris Day have something in common - they're both total jerks.
Morris has a lackey named Jerome (played by Jerome Benton, natch) who tosses old flames into dumpsters for his boss, while The Kid allows his lover to strip down and jump into the wrong lake before playfully driving off on his motorcycle. He's a dick to his band members when they want to play something different for a change. He's also a dick to his dad, because his dad's a dick to his mom. In fact, the only time Prince isn't picking a fight is when he's actually on the stage at First Avenue, and even then, in the case of "Darling Nikki," he's still picking a fight.
When Morris and Jerome jerk around, it's funny, but most of the movie's about Prince jerking around, which makes for a whole lot of melodramatic flailing. My particular favorite moment is when his character storms into his house, angrily looking for his dad, and pulls an angst-y twirl in the middle of the kitchen. It's the summation of why I can't buy Prince as anything but a singer; as a son, as a lover, as anything off-stage, he's beyond laughable.
But, of course, when he is on-stage, the music's great. Well, best-selling soundtrack good at the very least. But where were the promised ejaculating guitars? Next thing I know, they finally show, gushing forth suggestive mist, and then, the movie... ends. On a hilarious freeze-frame of Prince, mind you, but sudden all the same. It's funny, but it's not enough, just like the music's good, but not enough for me to feel as ecstatic about the movie as my friend had.
Purple Rain's one-of-a-kind all right, and I'm glad I finally saw it for myself, but I don't think it's enough to have me rushing to catch up with Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge any time soon.
Before we move on, please make sure to watch that trailer above.
You done? Awesome, isn't it? I'd never even heard of it before stepping foot into an Alamo Drafthouse back in 2006, and not only did I instantly buy into the aesthetic of those theaters, but I genuinely believed that I'd just seen the Greatest Trailer of All Time. I mean, it's stunts! And rock! And magic!
So, by that logic, Stunt Rock had to be the Greatest Movie of All Time. However, it wasn't on Region 1 DVD until this past August, and now that it's out, I've finally caught up with it, and even if it isn't in fact the Greatest Movie of All Time, it's a surprisingly entertaining excuse of bullshit plotting involving Aussie stuntman Grant Page and L.A.-based rock band Sorcery, who were kind of like Spinal Tap, but before them and with more magic tricks during their music performances. The story couldn't be less dramatic or likely, but that doesn't matter. The rock's good (well, not best-selling soundtrack good), and the stunts are better.
Actually, the only thing that really seems to be missing are a couple of ejaculating guitars.