The Good, The Better and the Ugly of Prince’s Film, “Purple Rain”

On Saturday night, I was flying solo. I was about to head to the Four Seasons d/bar when

I noted on Bloor Street, that the local Bloor Street Hot Docs theatre was planning on showing Prince’s iconic

film. The 10pm show was fully sold out, but I had a shot at the later 12:45 am show. So I took it.

Like most Prince fans, I was caught up with the sadness and tragedy of his sudden death and I wanted to share the experience of watching Prince, at his peak, at his most Purpleness, in his well-known film, “Purple Rain”.

With fellow true believers.

You had to be a really hard-core Prince fan to wait in the friggin cold outside the Bloor Street theatre for about one hour to cop one of the 700 seats in that old theatre. I am such a crazy, irrational fan.

So here is my take on the film and the whole scene. Experienced through a purple haze of nostalgia, sadness, and heavy weed, man, that the majority of the fans were smoking and had been smoking prior to the show. One theatregoer, in line, shared with me, “It looks like this whole place is full of people, young and old, “fully ripped”. She then offered me “one toke over the line”. Purely medicinal, I was assured. I declined, but appreciated the offer.

I suddenly realized I was in Justin Trudeau territory. Oy Vay!

The Good: the extreme, unshakeable loyalty to Prince, and love of Prince, the artist, the man and above all, his music- by his fans. I was standing in line for an hour talking to all sorts of Prince fans- aging 60ish rockers, 50ish Italian suburban types having made the long trek down from Woodbridge, hipster college dudes in hoodie, baseball caps and requisite beard, hot yuppie Annex couple, a whipsmart 40 something black woman, Lina and her multi-ethnic friend, Riva.

Lina has been following Prince for years. She had been to multiple concerts. Had most of his records and CDs. She could sing out all his top hits. She said that Prince’s lyrics and music got her through some tough times in high school, in college and in life. Most of my fellow Prince lovers shared those same heartfelt sentiments. She was a true believer as were most fans in the cold that night.

The Better: The penultimate moment of “Purple Rain”, loosely based on Prince’s life, is of course at the end of the film. Prince has gone through all kinds of shite with his family. His father, in the film, a songwriter and pianist, frustrated by his life and his failed dreams, was physically abusive to Prince’s mom and to Prince himself. (In real life Prince’s father, a songwriter and pianist had separated from his own mother at an early age and Prince was shuttled between two homes for years)

Prince, in turn upset by his girlfriend, Apollonia, joining a rival girl group, hits her ( shades of his abusive father) and thoroughly alienates her. Prince also alienates his own band and refuses to consider their own material for the band.

After his father’s attempted suicide, Prince seeks redemption, he adapts his band members’ work. Hence the song Purple Rain, whose lyrics deal astutely and sensitively with his father, Apollonia and his band mates.

See the full lyrics below.

This song and the whole score won the Academy Award for best original score, that year. And rightfully so.

It is powerful. It is moving. It is timeless. And its lyrics resonate. This song became Prince’s signature song in most of his future concerts.

The Ugly: my major beef with the actual film is the writing is boring, predictable and derivative.

Prince was a brilliant composer, singer, musician, and performer, but his screen acting is mediocre and weak.

And Apollonia’s acting is worse. The love and sex scenes between these two are cringe worthy.

The chemistry between them is non-existent. Their love and lust- unbelievable.

Prince was a unique genre-bending and gender-bending phenomenon. More Michael Jackson, then Action Jackson.

His slight 5’2” frame did not lend itself to leading man/romantic/lover status. Perhaps that is just me.

Lina, a die-hard Prince fan, admitted much the same. The music was memorable in the film, “Purple Rain”, but the rest, including Prince’s acting, was lame. She astutely observed the film was produced to promote and support the music.

Bang on.

I don’t mean to purple rain on Prince’s eulogy parade. But Prince should be remembered for his great music and his amazing talent. His actual film career-not so much.

Purple Rain

(written and performed by Prince and his band, Revolution)

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
I only wanted to see you
Bathing in the purple rain

I never wanted to be your weekend lover
I only wanted to be some kind of friend
Baby, I could never steal you from another
It’s such a shame our friendship had to end

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
I only wanted to see you
Underneath the purple rain

Honey, I know, I know
I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out
For something new, that means you too

You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind
I think you better close it
And let me guide you to the purple rain

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
If you know what I’m singing about up here
C’mon, raise your hand

Purple rain, purple rain

I only want to see you

In the purple rain.

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