When you have no budget, a cast of unknowns, and a weird idea, how do you turn it into a movie? Writer/Director John Sayles gives us some guidelines for doing just that with this way off center look at cross cultural science fiction.
It is hard to imagine the creativity that is required to work within the limitations that this movie seems to have had. In 1984, this was indie movie twice removed. The info I found says that Sayles payed for the film partially with funds from the MacArthur Genius grant he received. He was most known for scriptwriting for Roger Corman films and being an ace script doctor. Oh, and he made the influential “Return of the Secaucus 7”. I’ve only seen four of his movies and this was the first one I saw in a theater.
For a year before this movie hit, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” had ruled the radio airwaves and the TV screens turned to MTV. A month or so before the movie came out, the soundtrack to “Purple Rain” was released and suddenly, there was a different set of songs dominating the radio. The first time I can remember hearing “When Doves Cry” was when I was browsing the aisles of the Alhambra Bookstore on Main Street, killing time and feeding another one of my habits, book buying. The stereo system at the bookstore was not particularly elaborate, after all they sold books not music, but it was loud enough that when the percussion on the song kicked in, everybody looked up and our bodies started unconsciously moving to the music. This would be the soundtrack for our lives in the Summer of 1984.
“Purple Rain” has been praised for it’s innovative shooting of concert footage and clever editing of montages, and it has been criticized for it’s amateurish acting and ham-fisted story line. I’m going to concur on both counts but forgive the later because the music and the former are so overwhelmingly positive. Continue reading →
I re-watched this after ordering a DVD from Amazon. I have not seen it since the first time 30 years ago today. I now see why. It is not a bad film, it just isn’t very good and the jokes change tone all over the place. There are times that the story means to be sadly knowing, and other times when it is absurdly over the top. Even when the jokes seem to be overdone, the actors are playing it so low key that it is hard to get into the spirit of the film.
Steve Martin broke out as a comedy presence on SNL and in the concert arenas of the late seventies. His first starring movie was “The Jerk” which was clearly ridiculous but also incredibly funny. It was also a huge success. In fact throughout the 1980s Martin was a critical and financial success. The one film of his that did not seem to catch on was this one. It had the smallest box office of any of his movies at the time and of all the films he has appeared in, it is near the bottom when it comes to ticket sales. Of course box office does not equal quality but the inverse is not automatically true either. So this is a small film that appears to have been lost over time, and it is not really missed. Continue reading →