Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pink Floyd: The Wall




Based on the 1979 album by Pink Floyd that was conceived by its bassist/lyricist Roger Waters, Pink Floyd: The Wall is the story of a rock singer tormented by memories of his childhood and his dissolving marriage along with stories about the father he never knew as he succumbs to madness. Directed by Alan Parker and screenplay by Roger Waters, the film is a visual interpretation of the album that features animated sequences from Gerald Scarfe who did the album sleeve and animated backdrops for the 1980-1981 tour for the album as the character of Pink Floyd is played by Bob Geldolf. Also starring Christine Hargreaves, Eleanor David, Alex McCoy, Jenny Wright, and Bob Hoskins. Pink Floyd: The Wall is an eerie yet visually-dazzling film from Alan Parker.

The film plays into the mind of a troubled rock star who is haunted by the death of his father as well as a crumbling marriage and all sorts of troubled memories that forces him to build a mental wall against his demons. It’s a film that plays into a man who becomes insane as he would later imagine himself as a totalitarian dictator as it shows troubled he is as he also copes with memories of his mother who would smother him throughout his childhood. Roger Waters’ screenplay doesn’t have much dialogue as much of the narrative is told through the music with some re-recorded tracks from the album made specifically for the film. The first half is about the Pink Floyd character building his wall based on not just his own troubled memories but also the stories of his own father (James Laurenson) as well as events that led to his breakdown relating to marriage. The film’s second half is about Pink in the aftermath of building his wall as he succumbs to madness and later tries to make sense of what he’s feeling.

Alan Parker’s direction is very stylish in terms of some of the compositions he creates as it is a mixture of a lot of genres ranging from war to simple drama. Much of it involves some unique tracking and dolly shots for some of the action as well as some intimate yet startling scenery set in the hotel room that Pink is in. Parker’s usage of close-ups are intriguing from one unique shot of this extreme close-up of a cigarette half-burnt as the camera moves slowly for a close-up of Pink’s face. The usage of medium shots such as the scenes in the hotel room and moments that involve events outside of Pink’s life that includes his wife (Eleanor David) and her lover (James Hazeldine) which plays into Pink’s own sense of loss and growing state of madness.

Adding to Parker’s own unique visual approach are the animation sequences of Gerald Scarfe that played into Pink’s own sense of despair. The animation aren’t just surreal but also have a sense of terror as it relates to what Pink is going through. Then there’s the music which not only drives the story but also help play into the sense of loss that looms over Pink. While the result isn’t entirely perfect as a few songs are shifted into other parts of the narrative while a couple like Hey You and The Show Must Go On are omitted from the film. Parker is able to keep the story faithful while making it something that is clearly of its own. Overall, Parker creates a very thrilling and intense film about a man’s mental descent into madness.

Cinematographer Peter Bizou does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography to set moods for the look of the hotel room as well as some of the nighttime interior/exterior settings for some of the locations in London and other British cities. Editor Gerry Hambling does brilliant work with the editing to capture some of the moments of excess and craziness in the Young Lust sequence as well as some stylish cuts to match some of the animation and live action scenes. Production designer Brian Morris, with art directors Chris Burke and Clinton Cavers, does amazing work with the design of the hotel room that Pink lives in as well as the design of the ceremonies he would have as a dictator along with the design of the meat grinder sequence for Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.

Costume designer Penny Rose does terrific work with the costumes from the period clothes of the young Pink in the late 1940s/early 1950s to the design of the uniforms he would wear in his dictator persona. Sound mixer Clive Winter does nice work with some of the sound to play into some of the action as well as capturing the chaos of war while music producer James Guthrie provide some sound effects and expand them for the music with some of the songs by Pink Floyd sung by Bob Geldolf for a few of the songs.

The casting by Celestia Fox is superb as it features appearances from Roger Waters as Pink’s best man, Phil Davis as a roadie, James Laurenson as Pink’s father, Michael Ensign as the hotel manager, Margery Mason as the teacher’s wife, James Hazeldine as Pink’s wife’s lover, and as a group of groupies, Joanne Whalley, Nell Campbell, Emma Longfellow, and Lorna Barton. Other notable small roles include Jenny Wright as the American groupie for the One of My Turns scene, Alex McAvoy as the teacher for the young Pink, Christine Hargreaves as Pink’s mother, and Eleanor David as Pink’s wife as they would represent elements of the wall that Pink would built.

Bob Hoskins is terrific in a small role as Pink’s manager despite the minimal dialogue he has. In the roles of Pink Floyd, there’s David Bingham as the little Pink who is craving for a father figure while Kevin McKeon plays the adolescent Pink who not only copes with his father’s absence but also elements that would shape his upbringing. Finally, there’s Bob Geldolf in a remarkable performance as Pink Floyd as it’s a mostly silent performance as it’s very eerie while he goes full on for the few songs he sings to play into Pink’s own unraveling into a madman.

Pink Floyd: The Wall is a phenomenal film from Alan Parker. While Pink Floyd purists will obviously favor the original album in terms of its story, the film does serve as a true and definitive visual companion piece to the album for those that didn’t see the band nor Roger Waters’ recent tour do the album in its entirety in a live setting. As a standalone film, it is one of the most visually-sprawling rock films ever created that transcends the idea of the music video. In the end, Pink Floyd: The Wall is an enthralling film from Alan Parker.

Alan Parker Films: (Bugsy Malone) - (Midnight Express) - (Fame (1980 film)) - (Shoot the Moon) - (Birdy) - (Angel Heart) - (Mississippi Burning) - (Come See the Paradise) - (The Commitments) - (The Road to Wellville) - (Evita (1996 film)) - (Angela’s Ashes) - (The Life of David Gale)

Pink Floyd Films: (London ‘66-‘67) - Live at Pompeii - The Final Cut - (Delicate Sound of Thunder) - (Pulse)

Related: The Wall (album) - Roger Waters-The Wall Tour Live 11/18/10 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena

© thevoid99 2015

3 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

Never seen this one, though I've been hearing about how crazyvit is for years. Might have to break down and see this.

Fisti said...

I really wanted to like this...but outside of the intriguing sets and the wonderful music, it just didn't work for me.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I would see this but if you haven't heard the album. I would start with the album first which I think tells the story much better than the film. Plus, if you can find any live clips of Pink Floyd's show for the album or the recent tour that Roger Waters did. That would also help.

@Fisti-For me, the original album (which is one of five of my all-time favorite albums ever) is the best way to go to tell the story. I would also delve into the band's history as it explained a lot into why the album and eventual film was made.