“It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before—a weird fusion of live action, story-telling and of the surreal.”–Pink Floyd the Wall Director Alan Parker on the movie’s Cannes premiere
DIRECTED BY: Alan Parker
FEATURING: Bob Geldof, Kevin McKeon, Jenny Wright, Bob Hoskins
PLOT: The movie begins with a man sitting motionless in a chair in a hotel room. A series of scrambled flashbacks, fantasies and impressions tell the story of Pink, who grew up fatherless but became a successful, if unhappy, rock star prone to tantrums and bouts of severe depression. Eventually, Pink’s manager and a crowd of roadies and doctors break down the hotel room door and give him a shot which revives him; his body rots, he peels it away to reveal himself as a fascist dictator who goes onstage to perform.
- “The Wall” began life as a 1979 concept album by Pink Floyd. The double LP and the single “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” both reached #1 on Billboard’s U.S. charts. “The Wall” remains one of the 50 top selling albums of all time to this day.
- Most of the incidents in The Wall stem from Roger Waters’ personal history; a few, however, are taken from the life of former Pink Floyd lead singer Syd Barrett, a psychedelic drug abuser whose erratic behavior caused him to be kicked out of the band and to eventually become a recluse.
- Almost all of the songs from the original album appear in the movie, sometimes in slightly altered forms.
- With Alan Parker as producer, The Wall movie was originally intended to be a concert film with animated sequences and a few specially shot live action scenes. When the concert footage was found to be unusable, the project was reimagined as a (semi-) narrative film with Parker as director.
- Pink Floyd singer/bassist and Wall librettist Roger Waters originally wanted to play the lead, but after a poor screen test fellow musician Bob Geldof was cast instead. Ironically, Geldof, lead singer for the Irish punk band The Boomtown Rats, was reportedly not a Floyd fan.
- Parker and Waters clashed on the set, with the director almost quitting several times.
- Designer/animator Gerald Scarfe was a caricaturist and political cartoonist before he began collaborating with Pink Floyd.
- The cheering extras at the fascist concert were actual white supremacists.
- Director Parker called The Wall “the most expensive student film ever made.”
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Picking a single image to represent The Wall is a tough assignment. Among the live-action sequences, the vision of British schoolchildren in faceless blob masks marching into a meat-grinder is fairly unforgettable. It would be criminal, though, to elevate any mere photograph over Gerald Scarfe’s animations; even picking among them is a tough call. Though short, these bizarre and horrific images blaze across the screen in such a haunting way that their impact makes up for the brevity. We’re going to select the scene of the goosestepping fascist hammers as the most unforgettable (partly because the hammer imagery that recurs throughout the movie reaches a startling peak with this scene, and partly because Sacrfe’s crossed hammer symbol proved so iconic that it was adopted by actual fascist groups). If you chose the genitalia-shaped flowers who entwine, mate, and then grow teeth and viciously rip into each other before the female swallows the male whole, however, we couldn’t argue against it.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Pink Floyd: the Wall is a collaboration between three separate
Original trailer for Pink Floyd The Wall
creative talents. In 1979 Roger Waters performed a public self-psychoanalysis by writing a bombastic, self-indulgent rock opera, full of catchy melodies and sardonic lyrics. When it came time to adapt the album into a movie, he enlisted political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe to provide animated segments, which ultimately included a surrealistic version of the bombing of London during World War II, a judge who is literally an ass, and some of the scariest cartoon vaginas ever drawn. Bringing it all together was director Alan Parker (Midnight Express), who devised fantastic over-the-top live action visuals to complement the music and found a way to weave the competing thematic strands (autobiography, social commentary, and spur-of-the-moment surrealistic flights of fancy) into something comprehensible, while nonetheless keeping it defiantly weird. Trying to meld these three separate creative egos on a project whose source material was already grandiose and scattershot could easily have produced an incoherent, pretentious mess. Remarkably, the result instead is a semi-coherent, pretentious near-masterpiece.
COMMENTS: Watching, or listening, to Pink Floyd: The Wall is one miserable experience. All Continue reading 94. PINK FLOYD THE WALL (1982)