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Purple Rain was so ground-breaking when it came out, and still remains quite so today. The movie succeeds in telling a story that, even if somewhat fictionalized, is barely distinguishable from real life. It is as much an autobiographical as it is a fictionalized account of Prince's life before hitting it big. It is raw and realistic through and through. The movie is infused with real people playing themselves, in the real locations that made the Minneapolis scene so important and successful in the late 70's and early 80's. This effect was so successful that many sub-stories in the movie, even though they were fiction, became part of the Prince mythology. The director/writer/editor Albert Magnoli, Prince and the cast all collaborated together to create this and the result is quite unique: very few other films have managed to combine realism, music, live performances, and drama together so well (The Commitments come to mind). This musical has teeth and substance. It's not fluffy.
The movie is really solid in all respects, but the music is definitely center-stage and pushes the movie in a completely different dimension. Prince's music in Purple Rain is simply fantastic and there wasn't a single musical number where my heart didn't start to race. Prince won the Oscar that year for best score. One of the great invention of the movie was that it could still be a concert movie, and be a drama, and be a musical. And the concert elements give an unparallel peak into Prince's genius on stage. All stage scenes shine in how they convey the artists and their skills, and are as exciting today as they were 20 years ago. Prince's Act is still so exciting, emotional, and energetic. And at the end, when the song Purple Rain comes up, i dare any fan to not suffer from a burst of emotions. The song is simply perfect as the device to unlock the drama that had built up throughout the movie. The song, in itself, also remains so beautiful.
What makes this movie even more interesting is also its scope. This could have been a Prince movie and really focus on nothing else but himself. However, Prince, from the beginning, has always been the head of a large musical family. He has written more songs or others than for himself, and Purple Rain showcases key talents that gravitated around him at the time. Not only do you see Prince performing, but Morris Day and The Time, Apollonia 6, and others are also performing great numbers in the movie.
This is the first time i have seen this movie properly, on a big screen, recreating the experience i might have had in a theater. I played it very loud and soaked in all there was to get. I loved it so much, and not only because of the music, but also because of the overall quality of the film: it is very well written, directed and acted. It is surprising to me that the director/writer/editor Albert Magnoli never made any other significant movies after. Purple Rain is a great film, and if you are a Prince fan, it's a masterpiece.
I have a particular soft spot for this film, and even if emotionally i do not respond to it as much as i do to Purple Rain, there are so many elements i prefer. Technically speaking, Under The Cherry Moon is a superior movie, with fantastic sets, costumes, art direction and cinematography. And of course, the music is as amazing as expected from Prince at that time, and perfectly used in the overall narrative of the film.
Set in the south of France, Christopher Tracy (Prince) and Tricky (Jerome Benton, a close friend of Prince's) are some of the sexiest, and most successful, gigolos in the region, scamming money off of rich and affluent women. One day, Christopher meets the young, bubbly, upper-class Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas' first role) and falls in love. Of course, Mary's entourage and father, and Christopher prior conquests, do not believe any of the love story, especially given that Mary has $20M in trust that she will get access to when she marries.
This movie is surprising in its overall quality, but most importantly, in how Prince takes on a comedic role, making fun of himself in almost a caricatural ways. This movie is silly in many ways, and Prince and the cast are obviously having a great time. But this is a great light romantic comedy, with a gorgeous black and white cinematography, and costumes straight out of the roaring 20's. Prince creates a lyrical sense of 1930's romance here, and he succeeds. The movie has a lot of music, but it's not a musical. It's a far cry from the gritty realism of Purple Rain and resembles more the traditional Hollywood comedy of the 30's.
Performance-wise, Kristin Scott Thomas is as good as one would expect, in a role quite different from what she would eventually go on to play. She is sexy, bubbly, and provides a great counterpart to Prince's overacted part. Not to say that Prince is bad. I actually found him very good. His playful personality is great here, and his facial expressions, playing off his big eyes and full lips with great skill. It's all part of the game of this story, and anything less than an over the top performance would have been less satisfactory from Prince for the role of Christopher. Additionally, Jerome Benton provides a great comedic sidekick for Prince, and the two deliver some genuine laughs and fun moments together.
Under The Cherry Moon is so enjoyable and fun if you can play the game that Prince puts in front of you. But obviously, given the commercial failure of this movie, most people didn't play the game. For those who can, the experience is fun and unforgettable. The movie has laugh-out-loud moments, great music, great visuals, and Prince.
- Laurent Hasson