Ahhhhh! It's the time of the year when lovers meet, St. Valentine's day! It's also the anniversary of St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but let's not go into that. Rather, let's spend this day with the man who knows Love better than others, International Lover Prince Rogers Nelson, the Lord of D.M.S.R. (that's Dance, Music, Sex & Romance!). The funk musician's stardom was the biggest in the mid- to late 80's, when he released three movies starring himself. One is considered a classic, the other two – hm. Something Does Not Compute.
This clip from Under the Cherry Moon will illustrate my point, I think.
I'll try to include some song highlights, but sadly the clips are not from movies. Prince is notoriously adamant about not including his music on YouTube, so probably even these videos will be taken down soon. But we will still have tonight. So let's take a look at them, hop onto the Little Red Corvette and Let's Do It All Night, shall we?
Purple Rain (1984)
Director: Albert Magnoli
Prince's first movie is famous, but even more famous is the film's flawless soundtrack. That's why the film sort of revolves around the record, bouncing from one song to another. The titular track marks the climax of the film. Even though the songs are fun, dancable fun-rock pieces, the film itself is melodramatic to the point of resembling a soap opera episode.
Prince and his protege Morris Day play rivalling bar musicians The Kid and Morris Day, respectively. They both aim to capture the hearts of the party crowd and subsequentally making it big. They both start to battle for the young, beautiful singer Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero). While The Kid falls in love with her, and finds that her companionship completes his trobled soul, Morris just wants to put Apollonia on a borderline pornographic outfits to produce a success. And of course for Apollonia to put out for him. Morris Day is hilariously pimp in this film, walking around the streets in a pimp coat and cane with his muscleman Jerome (Jerome Benton). The misogynistic asshole even goes so far as to have him throw an ex-girfriend in a dumpster when she starts giving him shit.
Prince himself playing The Kid is intense and tormented, often arriving on the scene to just give a long stare. Make no mistake, he isn't above hitting a woman either. But he inherits it from his father's side of the family. Part of the ongoing tension is to see The Kid living in his parent's attic and watching fight all the time. The film's biggest flaw is that The Kid's relationship with Apollonia doesn't feel very real. He treats her like dirt and is often off to pout wallowing in his own problems. While driving her to a lake on his motorcycle, he makes her dip into the ice-cold water by reciting some mystic bullshit, and then fakes as if he's leaving. By the end of the film, he learns to respect women: the women in his band that write the song that raises him to stardom, that is. Not Apollonia.
At the club, The Kid's performances aren't as popular as Morris Day's, as Kid regulraly goes off the rails as much as the real Prince circa 1984 in his live performances. For all the odd soap opera dynamic, this is a well-beloved classic for a good reason: The music is nothing short of brilliant. Even background-fillers like Take Me With U still feel like they haven't aged a day. And then there is the excitement of seeing Prince slither and squirm when singing the dirty, dirty sex-filled Darling Nikki. Even Morris Day has his time to shine with (actually Prince-penned) Jungle Love, one of my very favorite party tracks. The club scenes feel intimate in multiple ways, and one raises sweat just to looking at Prince putting his best on the screen. For all its flaws, it's one of the better pop star's vanity projects.
A very hard choice, but an obvious highlight is when soul-searching Kid has troubles with Apollonia and compares them with his parents' problems with When Doves Cry.
Under The Cherry Moon (1986)
Whereas with Alberto Magnoli's direction (no doubt interfered a lot by Prince himself) there was a lot of fun to be had alongside all the melodrama, things change when the Artist himself was given the reign over his next film. Under The Cherry Moon is bombastic, faux-arty, almost completely joyless and ultimately, boring. It tied with Howard the Duck at the 7th annual Razzies for the Worst Picture. For me, it's no contest which is worse.
Two young men on Miami Beach, Christopher Tracy (Worst Actor Razzie winner Prince) and Tricky (Worst Supporting Actor Razzie winner Jerome Benton) scam older women for money. Christopher also works as a high-class restaurant pianist, which makes it easier for him to prowl for his victims. One day, Tricky and Christopher read from the paper that a young heiress of 50 million dollars is coming their way. They make a deal to do the mother of all hustles and then retire as rich men. However, when Christopher starts to spend time with the heiress, the beautiful Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas), he starts to fall in love with her.
As you can see from the synopsis, this is hardly an original film. What bothers is that it's all shot so pretentous. The film is black-and-white, with the visuals all depicting high-class and suaveness, even when depicting a run down apartement building. Even the quality of the music varies a lot. In fact, Love and Money from this film won a Razzie for Worst Song. Add one Razzie for Prince for the worst direction, and it brings the grand total of "awards" for this supposedly sophisticated drama to five, making it the biggest "winner" of the year over Howard's four. And for a good reason.
Easily the best part in the film sees Christopher and Mary starting to make out while being watched by a couple of amazed hobos. At the same time one of Prince's biggest hits, Kiss, starts to play.
Graffiti Bridge (1990)
|Aren't you just dying to see the film based on this poster?|
After the failure of Cherry Moon, Prince went back to revisit the characters of Purple Rain. This is one of those unnecessary sequels, and not a very good one at that. But as a pop movie it at least has the good sense not to pretend to be anything bigger, and re-adapts the old musicvideo style. The aesthetics are again filled with coloured neon lights on dark, rain-soaked streets.
This time, The Kid has inherited the bar in which he vacants, while Morris Day has purchased one of his own. The two rivals come up with a bet of which one will write the better song. The winner will take over the other's bar. Again, the real source of their rivalry is a girl, this time the poet Aura (Ingrid Chavez). The Kid has started to brood even more than before after the death of his father, but the poetic girl might be just what he needs to get his mojo back. If Morris only doesn't steal him first.
Like one can see, this one also doesn't celebrate with a good nor an original plot. The actors are, if possible even worse acted and more aversive than before. The Kid in particular is almost impossible to emphasize with as he spends so much of the film inside his own head. Also he sports the ungliest beard known to man. There are certainly visible signs of Prince's stardom beginning to wane. But the film is also most like a musical from all these, with everything stopping when abrupted by music numbers, and background people starting to dance and such. So at least the film has some sense of fun back. Just see it while drunk to take some of the edge off.
The soundtrack is a little better than in Under The Cherry Moon, with the highlight being the music video-like sequence for the classic song, Thieves in the Temple. Luckily, I managed to find a clip from the film itself. Watch here before it's taken down.
Like Graffiti Bridge would imply, Prince would turn to doing loosely-crobbled-together films that tie his music videos together. They would go straight-to-video from then on. One of these which I would've been dying to see is 1994's 3 Chains O' Gold – a film where Prince (playing himself, a true superstar!) teams with an ancient Egyptian princess to battle seven evil versions of himself. With his fists! Alas, I couldn't get my hands on the film anywhere. So if any of my readers would know how to acquire this film, I would be very grateful.