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In 1984, Prince was on top of the music world, a position he was not going to relinquish until the early 90's. He was such a refreshing talent, combining incomparable genius with great popular appeal. Prince, along with Tom Waits, fashioned the soundtrack of my teenage years. I was simply one of the biggest Prince fan at the time, and still am to some extent. I remember spending entire afternoons in flee markets and specialized record stores to find anything that was from him, bootlegs, maxi singles etc... Simply put, i probably own every single song he recorded in the 80's and early 90's, either officially or unofficially. I loved the music, what he had to say, and his overall provocative persona. My Aunt, 7 years my elder, had introduced him to me after she attended one of his first concert in Paris (for his Controversy and 1999 albums) where she was delighted to see this young diminutive black man in garter belt, with his ass showing, bursting with incredible energy and talent. He might have been 5 feet tall, but he was a giant on stage. For several years, between 1984 and 1994, nothing came closer in emotion and enjoyment than his music. Every year, i would stand in line on a special morning and be one of the first people in Paris to buy his new album. I would spend the next few months over the summer pretty much listening to nothing but that new album, and went to see him in concert several times during that period.
The 6 albums he released between 1984 and 1988 are among my favorite of all times. Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day, Parade, Sign 'O' The Times, The Black Album and Lovesexy remain so modern and intelligent to this day. Prince and The Revolution were truly revolutionary, not only in the way they fused together key musical movements of the 60's and 70's, dominated by Funk music, with the emerging synth-pop of the 80's, but also the social message they were preaching. In the overly conservative America of the early 80's, Prince was championing a message of liberated sex that reverberated from the 70's, along with a message of religious consciousness. Yes, you could be deeply religious, and a good person, and be very sexual at the same time. Not everybody agreed though, of course, and Tipper and Al Gore in particular were outraged by the lyrics in Darling Nikki, a famously raunchy track from Purple Rain describing a woman doing stuff to herself in front of a magazine! As a result, they launched one of the more virulent wave of artistic censorship that culminated in the creation of the black and white "Parental Advisory, Explicit Lyrics" labels now common on hot CDs. Purple Rain, the album, was not only revolutionary in its musical content, but also in the political debates it would trigger. For people like me, the message of sexual tolerance, and sophistication, was very clear, and fun.
In addition, the Revolution was also very eclectic. Mixing musical talents from all horizons, the group freely mixed white and black folks in a true racial harmony. And then, of course, there were Wendy and Lisa, the lesbian couple who formed the key artistic counter-balance to Prince's crazy uncontrolled outbursts of creativity. Not only was there a dash of sexual intrigue in this arrangement, but Wendy and Lisa were really at the forefront of Prince's work, pushing 2 women as key creative players in an enormously successful act. Lisa played the keyboards, and Wendy was a great rocking guitar player. Even after they split from Prince in 1987, Wendy and Lisa have remained very respected in the musical scene and have released several really good albums since then. And they are still together, going strong after 20 years.
But, for this incredible guy, music was not enough, and Prince was very aggressive in trying out a few motion pictures, 3 to be exact. Prince became a film star overnight with Purple Rain, released in 1984. It's of course his trademark effort, gathering a cult following, great reviews, and strong commercial success. Under The Cherry Moon, released in 1986, was not nearly as successful as Purple Rain, but was nevertheless recognized as a very interesting acting, writing and directing-wise for Prince. The film never gathered any traction with the masses, but was well received and respected among fans. Finally, Graffiti Bridge, an unofficial sequel to Purple Rain, was a massive failure, even for fans. Disappointing music, boring story, and low production quality caused the movie to be released straight to video in most key markets.
I never saw Purple Rain in the theaters and only saw it on some bootleg VHS in the early 90's. I enjoyed the movie, but the quality of the tape, and the small TV screen i saw it on then, did not allow me to truly appreciate it. This is one of the movie i have been most eagerly waiting for on DVD. Yes, there has actually been a DVD out for many years already, but the so-so quality of the video transfer, and stereo soundtrack, and full-frame ratio turned me off from buying it. Finally, after so many years, Warner has released a DVD that makes the movie proud. The 20th Anniversary Special Edition is simply fantastic, showing the film in its original 1.85 ratio for the first time on home video ever, with a great video transfer and wonderful 5.1 Dolby digital remixed soundtrack. The DVD also sports some great extras containing very interesting documentaries, and all the videos for the songs released as singles from the album.
But even though i was very exited that the movie would be finally released properly on DVD, i was a little bit worried that my anticipation was mainly fueled by some nostalgic instinct. I was so agreeably surprised then to experience this film right for the first time, and really, really, loving it for other reasons besides the music and Prince. This is a great Musical that fuses music in the story in very natural ways: the music is never forced and is a complete part of the story itself. The story is complex and feels very true emotionally. The strong acting, by mostly non actors, reinforces this natural feel and makes the movie all the more powerful.
The Kid (Prince) is an up and coming artist in the Minneapolis scene. His band (played by the actual members of The Revolution) are deeply devoted to him, but have nevertheless problems coping with the Kid's brash and cocky attitude, preferring often to do things alone than share the creative process along with his team. This creates in particular lots of tension with the 2 female members of his band, Wendy and Lisa, who have concocted this delicious tune (that would eventually become Purple Rain), but which the Kid simply won't touch. The Kid is really just that, a young and trouble kid who manages his life with difficulty, balancing his music, and personal life, populated by a difficult parental relationship, leading up to his father's suicide, and a difficult personal relationship with his love interest, Apollonia (played by the ultra sexy Apollonia Kotero). All those personal problems don't make his professional life any easier, with very tough competition in the club where he performs from other bands, in particular, The Times, lead by Morris (Morris Day).
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- Laurent Hasson