Pink Floyd — The Wall (99 minutes) 1982/Rated R – starring Bob Geldof, Christine Hargreaves, James Laurenson, Eleanor David, Kevin McKeon, Bob Hoskins, David Bingham and Jenny Wright. Directed by Alan Parker. Released through MGM/UA Home Video.
If ever there was a film made for slitting your wrists to, this is it. After almost two decades, Alan Parker’s cinematic translation of the mega-morose musings of Roger Waters and the Floyd is still effectively downbeat and downright depressing. I applaud that achievement only in admiration for craft, not so much for storytelling repercussions. It takes a great deal of skill to make something so entertainingly bleak.
Focusing on the misogynistic, self-indulgent world of male angst, Parker’s visuals and Waters’ lyrics present a relentless hour and a half of melancholic self-pity. Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof plays the lead character of Pink, a self-absorbed rock icon on a downward spiral of Freudian proportions. His father left a void in his life after his death at the battle of Anzio in WWII, and his mother smothered him with bosomy love and affection, effectively ruining any and all relationships with future potential girlfriends. Taunted by abusive schoolmasters, he’s associated his formal ‘education’ as a meat-grinder existence. Once Pink becomes the reclusive celebrity, fearful of adoration, he seals himself completely inside his ‘wall’ of isolation, then, plays out in his mind fantasies of his lashing out at the masses, subordinating their adulation to his very-male, fascistic tendencies.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot of creative elements to Parker’s vision of the material, and there’s also much that is overly-redundant. By nature of Pink Floyd’s opus, there is not much to fill 90 minutes of story. By introducing two new songs, especially “When The Tigers Broke Free,” we are allowed to learn the backstory of Pink’s father at war, and this helps Parker to tie in many militaristic themes throughout the picture (ex. TV’s flickering war films, police corralling looters in regimented fashion, animated hammers marching in formation). Standout scenes tend to revolve around Pink in his hotel room — amongst them, shots of his arranging his life’s mementos across the carpet, his shaving his eyebrows, and his being dragged as a molting metamorphosis to his limo, are all moments which are highly creative. Also, political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe’s malevolent animations add insightful metaphors to Pink’s state of madness. The best match between music and image occurs in the second half of the song “One of My Turns,” when Geldof goes totally ballistic in the hotel suite, thrashing everything in sight, the energy of the soundtrack and the visuals all synthesizing into a mini-masterpiece. Unfortunately, Parker relies heavily on repeating themes of fascism, Pink’s bleak childhood, and interrelation disconnects far too much, as a result of the confining limitations of Pink Floyd’s material, and this leads to his recycling of imagery, making the last half hour of the film drag on endlessly.
Bob Geldof’s performance as Pink is appropriately distanced and catatonic. By only screaming from a hotel window and mumbling the words to “Stop” in a bathroom stall, he conveys the soul of his doomed protagonist mostly through his hollow-eyed stares and inexpressive body language. Because Waters’ creation is pretty much a 2-dimensional fellow, we are only getting to see Pink as a despondent cipher. It’s only when a young Pink, played by David Bingham, approaches a father at a local playground and tries in vain to go home with him, that we see something truly heartfelt and vulnerable.
Perhaps director Alan Parker needed to tear down the Wall of sugary, sweet highs he suffered shooting his musical film “Fame” when he accepted this job. Whatever the reason, try not to catch this movie on that one day when your significant other leaves you, you lose your job, and you’re staring at a bag of cocaine and razor blades.
© 2000 Ned Truslow