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  Pink Floyd The Wall Misery Loves Company
Year: 1982
Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Bob Geldof, Christine Hargreaves, James Laurenson, Eleanor David, Kevin McKeon, Bob Hoskins, David Bingham, Jenny Wright, Alex McAvoy, Ellis Dale, James Hazeldine, Ray Mort, Margery Mason, Robert Bridges, Michael Ensign, Joanne Whalley, Nell Campbell
Genre: Musical, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Pink (Bob Geldof) may be one of the biggest rock stars in the world, but this status brings him no happiness and he has great reservations about his worth as an icon. More than that, he sees this standing as part of the authority that he has always despised, and as he sits alone in his hotel room in a deep funk of depression, he thinks back to his childhood and the one point where he feels his emotional life started to head downhill. That point was when his father was killed in World War Two while following the orders of those higher up the chain of command and leaving Pink without a parent; he never felt his overbearing mother was adequately able to do the job of two. And so Pink gradually becomes what he hates, a leader who pulls his followers into the way of fascism...

You might have thought that the medium of film was a natural for adapting that most narrative form of long playing music, the concept album. But perhaps the accusations of pretention that inevitably follow such endeavours deter all but the most committed of filmmakers, and certainly this version of Pink Floyd's project The Wall garnered some terrible reviews, all essentially saying that this was the worst kind of self-indulgence on the part of the three main talents behind it: writer Roger Waters, director Alan Parker and designer/animator Gerald Scarfe. With that in mind, it's important to remember that there was a lot of behind the scenes squabbling about the direction the project should take.

What resulted is one of the most singular depictions of all-consuming resentment ever to grace the screen. You might say that Pink was disillusioned by the path his adult life took, but there's no evidence his childhood was any more enjoyable. Over and over, the story takes aim at authority figures (such as teachers) and women who will only let you down in the end, resembling a concept album that seems to have stuck on the needle, and all this can get more than a little relentless in its bad tempered impatience with what it sees as has gone wrong with the world, if indeed the world was ever right.

And that without providing any solutions or answers to how Pink will raise himself up out of this ever-pervading Hell. Despite the poor initial reaction, there is much to admire about the film, mainly in the shape of its visuals. Scarfe's animation is so grimly inventive that you'll wish there was more of it (some have said that an all-animated version of the album would have been preferable to what we got), a nightmarish procession of marching hammers, mutating flowers, sexual metaphors and stylised violence. It may not do much other than underline the themes, but it's an excellent complement to them.

However the greater part of the film is live action, made up of over-literal drama and metaphors noticeably plainer than the animated efforts. For the former examples include tear jerking scenes like the young Pink trying to find a replacement daddy in a play park, for the latter a procession of schoolchildren wearing distorted masks tumbling into a meat grinder. As far as the grown up Pink is concerned, it's those rock 'n' roll movie clich├ęs all the way, the swift rise to fame that can be regretted at the protagonist's leisure, in this case endlessly watching The Dam Busters or smashing up hotel rooms. After a possible drugs overdose (although we never see Pink take any), Waters goes further, equating rock star adulation to fascistic worship as Pink turns dictator. For some reason, we never see him playing any instruments in concert, or doing much that is musical at all - barking out a few song lyrics is about it. If the numbing parade of misery doesn't put you off, The Wall is certainly striking.

Incidentally, "We don't need no education"?! I think you'll find that's a double negative, proving that education is one thing you do need.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Alan Parker  (1944 - 2020)

Stylish British director, from advertising, with quite a few musicals to his credit: Bugsy Malone, Fame, Pink Floyd The Wall, The Commitments (possibly his best film) and Evita. Elsewhere he has opted for serious-minded works like Midnight Express, Shoot the Moon, Birdy, Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning and The Life of David Gale. The Road to Wellville was a strange attempt at outright comedy.

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