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A young man (Prince) with a talent for music has begun a career with much promise. He meets an aspiring singer, Apollonia, and finds that talent alone isn't all that he needs. A complicated tale of his repeating his father's self destructive behavior, losing Apollonia to another singer (Morris Day), and his coming to grips with his own connection to other people ensues.
For more about Purple Rain and the Purple Rain Blu-ray release, see Purple Rain Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 20, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Albert Magnoli
Writers: Albert Magnoli, William Blinn
Starring: Prince, Apollonia, Morris Day, Olga Karlatos, Clarence Williams III
» See full cast & crew
Purple Rain Blu-ray Review
"Purify yourself in the waters of lake Minnetonka."
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 20, 2009
After The Chapelle Show's "True Hollywood Stories with Charlie Murphy" sketch, I can't look at Prince without seeing Dave Chapelle in a blouse, dry humping a basketball and dunking magically over Eddie Murphy's brother. It doesn't help that The Artist is known to take himself so seriously. I mean, who goes by an unpronounceable symbol? Still, there was a time when Prince was undeniably pop royalty, a performer who combined the showmanship of Little Richard and James Brown with the guitar prowess of Hendrix and the ambiguous androgyny of David Bowie. Purple Rain was Prince's musical blitzkrieg, a cross-cultural takeover that launched him to international stardom and, like Seattle and grunge in the 90s, put the unlikely state of Minnesota on the map for the electric funk of its "Minneapolis Sound." While Prince has become somewhat of a pop oddity in the intervening years, Purple Rain captures him in his glittering prime, preening and thrusting on stage like a svelte, sex-crazed tomcat out on his nightly prowl.
Like 8 Mile, a film it undoubtedly influenced, Purple Rain is a largely autobiographical story that takes just enough liberties to effectively separate fact from fiction. Prince plays The Kid, a Minnesotan rocker who channels the violence of his home life into emotionally charged songs for The Revolution, his funk-rock fusion band. There's some minor infighting amongst the group, a standoff with rival band The Time, and The Kid has an on-again- off-again relationship with Apollonia (Apolloinia Kotero), a fellow singer with aspirations. The plot is basically a thin and perfunctory series of events that serves to tie together performances at Minneapolis' famous First Avenue nightclub.
Expectedly, the film is at its best when The Kid is doing his thing onstage. He's a bundle of sexual energy with no outlet but the wild flailing of his limbs, some fancy footwork, and enough hip pumps to impregnate a small village. And the clothes! Check out that blouse! The bedazzled purple jacket! The flamenco boots with four-inch heels! With his pirate locks and fem, military duds, Prince looks like a glam Captain Crunch or a sexy colonel from some glittery space future. The funk too is just fantastic. "Let's Go Crazy" erupts with big beats and scuffed-up guitar, "Purple Rain" is all tears and lofted lighters, and let's not forget the scandalous lyrics of "Darling Nikki," which prompted Tipper Gore to found the Parents Music Resource Center. The Kid's guitar solos are noodling, masturbatory displays, and the film culminates with Prince's hands running up and down the neck before the head of his guitar literally—I mean literally—spurts water all over the crowd. And cut!
Unfortunately, the non-music sections of the film are not nearly as entertaining. The acting is fairly terrible across the board, as the cast is comprised of musicians who are basically playing hyperbolized versions of themselves. Former Mod Squad member Clarence Williams III plays The Kid's father, and though he's the only real professional actor of the lot, his performance is perhaps the most over-the-top, as he storms around the house and beats down his wife and son. There are a few laughs—courtesy of The Time's Morris Day and Jerome Benton—and plenty of emoting, mostly from Prince, who, when not thrashing about the stage, generally looks either self-satisfied or in need of a hug.
All the same, no matter what you think about Prince—or his music—Purple Rain does have a kind of camp charm and infectious energy. It's hard not to grin when The Kid tools around town on a big purple motorcycle that looks like a reject from the Batman television series. The costumes are flat-out ridiculous and every pan of the audience during the club scenes reveals a score of New Wave-wannabes, their faces painted with neon stripes, sulking with their cigarettes and nodding in time to the beat. As a film, Purple Rain really isn't that great, but it is a sometimes fascinating cultural document that captures the sexy, sweaty essence of 1980s excess.
Purple Rain Blu-ray, Video Quality
Purple Rain's 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer is full of hits and misses. The source print is nearly immaculate, with only a few spots and speckles throughout the film. Colors are generally bold, with big washes of blues, yellows, reds, and—of course—purples soaking the stage during Prince's literally off-the-wall performances. The overall look is far better than the dull presentation of the DVD, but it's far from Warner's best restoration jobs. While certain sections of the film look sharp, many scenes have an almost gauzy softness and the image in general lacks any real HD pop. Black levels are inconsistent, sometimes looking great, occasionally crushing detail—the strands of Prince's hair get easily lost—and other times looking grayish and washed out. Grain levels are similarly helter skelter, with outdoor scenes, like the motorcycle sequence, appearing almost grain- free, while darker interiors and night shots show rampant patches of analog noise. The film looks good, don't get me wrong, but it lacks the crispness and depth of other restored catalog titles.
Purple Rain Blu-ray, Audio Quality
For a rock 'n roll film, Purple Rain's TrueHD 5.1 surround track lacks some serious punch. Like the image quality, the audio is never bad, but it does show the limitations and age of its source materials. Bass sounds undefined and overpowering, the mid-range rhythm section feels occasionally flat, and the high-end screeches and squalls of Prince's face-melting guitar solos are rendered thin with compression. Rear channels are used almost entirely for ambience—I can't recall a single discrete effect—and most of the music is blasted from the front speakers. Though the lack of directionality in the music is perhaps accurate for a rock concert—where the speakers are all facing outward—I could live with a rounder sound at the expense of realism. Dialogue, on the other hand, is mostly clear and discernable, though occasionally a line will get lost in the din of the First Avenue club. Overall, this is a clean but dynamically flat track that never rocks the house quite like you imagine it could.
Purple Rain Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director Albert Magnoli, Producer Bob Cavallo, and Director of Photography Don Thorin
Only diehard Prince fans need listen to this dull and silence-filled track. There's simply way too much uninteresting technical chatter, and the director references his student films one too many times. The other two participants, while occasionally eking out some little anecdotes, lapse frequently into "I thought he was brilliant in this scene" style comments.
First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty (SD, 12:24)
An inside look at the First Avenue nightclub that gave birth to Prince, Soul Asylum, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, and others. This feature includes interviews with manager Steve McClellen, members of The Time and Revolution, and various other musicians, journalists and DJs.
Purple Rain: Backstage Pass (SD, 29:45)
Though sadly devoid of Prince's regal presence, this making-of special is an otherwise all- encompassing look at the production of Purple Rain, from the film's origin to its successful opening box office weekend. Producer Robert Cavallo discusses how Prince wanted a story based on his career, saying, "I want to star in a major movie, I want my name above the title, and I want it to be at a major studio." That's a rather tall order, but part of the thrust of this featurette is how Prince was and is insanely hardworking. Director Albert Magnoli even claims that Prince gave him 100 fully produced songs for possible inclusion in the movie. The dissection of the music is the feature's most interesting segment, with former members of The Revolution reminiscing about the creation of hit songs like "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry." Along with members of the cast and crew, we also get to see our old pal Kurt Loder of MTV News, who says "I think Purple Rain set a standard for pop movies, and we're still waiting to see it matched."
Riffs, Ruffles and a Revolution: The Impact and Influence of Purple Rain (SD, 10:01)
Examining Purple Rain's influence on pop culture, music, and fashion, this brief feature covers the Purple Rain tour, Prince's costuming, and the genesis of the "Minneapolis Sound." Many of the same interviewees are included, but there's also a brief cameo by Macy Grey, who says that she learned to play guitar after being impressed by Prince's guitarist Wendy.
The disc includes standard definition videos for Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," "Take Me With You," "When Doves Cry," "I Would Die 4 You / Baby I'm a Star," and "Purple Rain," The Time's "Jungle Love" and "The Bird," and "Sex Shooter" by Apollonia 6.
Trailers (SD, 4:46)
Included are trailers for Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon, and Graffiti Bridge.
MTV Premiere Party (SD, 27:52)
The teased hair! The tightly coiled strings of pearls! Pegged jeans! While MTV's Premiere Party doesn't offer much in terms of behind-the-scenes insight, it is a walking, talking time capsule of the mid-1980s. Eddie Murphy shows up in a cheetah-print suit jacket with no shirt on and a black leather handkerchief tied around his neck. Pee Wee Herman rolls up to the red carpet in a tiny toy car. Weird Al fidgets wildly at a table with John Cougar Mellencamp and exclaims, "We all knew Prince was a great actor, but who knew he could sing!" Perhaps most oddly of all, Little Richard shows up to give Prince a Bible ("God loves you Prince!") and then has the hubris to say, "Prince is the me of this generation." What was wrong with the '80s?
Purple Rain Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you grew up in the early 80s, or you're a Prince fan from way back in the day, you've probably seen Purple Rain and already have an opinion of it one way or another. For those who were either too young or too old to catch Prince's sweaty zeitgeist, the film is a pretty good indication of what was happening pop culture-wise during the Reagan years. With a decent, but never stunning AV lineup and a bounty of extra features, I'd say Purple Rain is a must-own for Prince fans, but a solid rental for everyone else.
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