Monday, April 9, 2012

Pink Floyd The Wall

The Wall by Pink Floyd is my favorite music album. It contains a number of my favorite songs - "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2," "Hey You," "Mother," and "Comfortably Numb" - and it has a sprawling ambition and daring which, given how sugar-coated and homogenized music has become today, stands out even more. Plus, the central message - the emotional walls we build to keep the outside world out - speaks to me.

Directed by Alan Parker, Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) is probably as good of a movie as we could have expected from an adaptation of the album. The hyper-stylized movie showcases the music of the album and attaches images to augment the music. It is the sound of the album visualized, and the result is often disorienting, bizarre, surreal, freaky, and brilliant.

Rock star Pink (Bob Geldoff) is a burned-out basket case. Everything that has happened in his life - the death of his father in World War II, the smothering upbringing by his mother, the oppressive environment of primary education, the infidelity of his wife - has turned him into a emotional zombie. He walls himself off from the world, literally in his hotel room and mentally from having any sort of human feelings or interaction.

The film does not possess a standard, three-act plot structure. We just bare witness to Pink's fragile psyche as he drifts in and out of different memories, hallucinations, and events. Split between live action and animation by political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, it zeroes in on every hangup of this troubled rock star: his issues with women, absence of a father, fear of nuclear annihilation, drug problems, and life as a touring musician. All these elements contributed to his building of his metaphorical wall.

Parker crafts some very striking images during the live action sequences: Pink staring blankly at his TV in his trashed hotel room; the rally in which Pink morphs into a kind of fascist dictator and the audience an adoring public; and in probably its most famous scene, the schoolchildren donning masks and marching into a sausage grinder as "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" plays.

Scarfe's animation, obviously even less tethered to a grounded reality, includes a cornucopia of distorted, graphic, and sometimes frightening images. We see war planes transforming into flying crosses, a monstrous flower devouring another, and at the end, Pink putting himself on trial with a grotesque judge.

There's very little dialogue and scantly anything pleasant about Pink Floyd The Wall, but it's a daring, visually extravagant enterprise. The film is essentially a 90-minute music video, further exploring the themes of the album, but if you can accept its nihilism and bleakness, you'll find it's a daring work. As a fan of the album, the best I can say is it does the music justice.

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