On August 13th, it will have been 32 years since the motion picture Pink Floyd The Wall was released here in the United States. The film was the motion picture of the blockbuster Pink Floyd album The Wall, which was released in November of 1979. 32 years isn’t the most attractive year to look back on a film, but in November, it will mark the album’s 35th anniversary of release. So, you can kind of understand where I’m coming from. Pink Floyd The Wall was not very warmly embraced by the moviegoing public when it was released in the summer of 1982. But ever since it was released, the film has become a cult classic, with many claiming it to be one of the greatest rock and roll films ever (Roger Ebert loved it, here’s his review), while others find the film to be a bit of a mess. I’m in the latter of that category. First things first, I love Pink Floyd. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time. In a matter of a year or so, I’ve learned so much about the history of the band, their albums, their turmoil, and so on. David Gilmour, next to Jimmy Page, is the greatest living guitarist, with Mr. Gilmour contributing his riffs and solos to some of the greatest songs ever recorded, along with bringing his beautiful and eloquent vocal range in every Pink Floyd song that he sings on. I’m not the biggest fan of the album of The Wall, mainly because it was at a moment in Pink Floyd’s history where it became almost primarily a Roger Waters project, and not a Pink Floyd project. Mr. Waters wrote all of the music and lyrics on the album, and it became less collaborative than the previous Pink Floyd albums. Drummer Nick Mason was dismissed by Waters, and tension began to broil between the band. Don’t get me wrong, some of the greatest Pink Floyd songs are on that album, and I wouldn’t think you’re nuts if you say it’s a masterpiece. However, I still believe that the film is a mess, and here’s why.
British musician Bob Geldof plays the lead character of Pink, whose a depressed and drug addicted rock star whose had a breaking point in his life. Pink has had a rough life, with his father never coming back from World War 2, an over bearing mother that smothers Pink soon after his father’s death, and his failed marriage. Pink begins to fade away from society, and becomes more and more reclusive and isolated. The film features very little dialogue, and is told with its nightmarish imagery illustrated by Gerald Scafe, and the music of Pink Floyd from the album itself.
The film, which is directed by legendary British filmmaker Alan Parker, is a beautifully well shot and edited film. I remember in Roger Ebert’s review of the film is that Parker took a lot of filmmaking and shot cues from Martin Scorsese at the time, who had just made Raging Bull at the time. Parker does use a lot of very unique visual techniques in making the live action parts of the film, with several sequences in the film that stand out, particularly the “Another Brick in the Wall” segment, which is just gorgeous in a very haunting way. There are many things that this film accomplishes and accomplishes well, and one of those being the tone of the album of The Wall. The Wall is a very depressing and honest look into the psyche of a rock and roll musician. It’s great to have sex and drugs and rock and roll, but at what cost? The problem with the film is that you don’t really get to know any of the characters, particularly the character of Pink, all that well since the film takes this route of having the music and the visuals tell its story. One of those problems is Roger Waters himself, who wrote the screenplay for the film. I think Roger Waters is a genius when it comes to writing music, but writing music and writing scripts is a whole different ballgame. Waters doesn’t know how to bring that kind of emotion toward the script as he does with his music. What saves the film from being a complete disaster is the music, and the direction by Parker.
And of course, not to forget the psychotic and horrifying animation that is presented in the film by Gerald Scarfe, a British illustrator who had worked with Waters on the album cover art of The Wall. The scenes where the animation takes over for the live action apsects of the film are easily the best and most iconic parts of this weird and strange film. Good luck trying to sleep after you see the sequences of “The Trial” and the marching hammers of “Waiting for the Worms”. And the rest of the film can be as equally frightening and psychotic, with sequences of Pink imaging himself as a Hitler style dictator that takes over the world, to a young Pink wandering into an empty insane asylum. It’s a very strange film that is very deserving of its cult classic status, even though The Wall continues to be arguably the most iconic Pink Floyd album ever made. Roger Waters himself toured the world for 3 years doing a concert version of The Wall, with imagery from the film and the album all over the production of the tour. There are tons of videos on YouTube of people having tapped the concerts, and if you’re a die-hard Pink Floyd fan like myself, I highly recommend you go check it out.
There are songs from the album in the film that are taken out of the film completely, an example being “Hey You”. And songs that were re-recorded for the film, with a beautiful version of “Mother” playing in a very gloomy and dark segment of the film. But, one of the biggest problems with this film is that it never really feels like a movie. It feels like a two-hour music video, which don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool music video, and especially for Pink Floyd fans such as myself, it’s quite stunning to see an album like The Wall be visualized in such a terrifying and strange nature such as this film. As I said before, you never really feel that attached to anything or anyone. Granted, maybe the filmmakers intention was that the album and the visuals were so powerful, that an actual script with a story and characters talking to one another wasn’t necessarily. As you know me, I’m kind of old school when it comes to movies. I don’t mind when films experiment, in fact I love it when the movies taking insane creative risks nail it right on the mark, but this film doesn’t quite do so. It has potential to, and it almost reaches that mark, but it falls flat due to a lack of sympathy or emotion from the audience. I think the reason this film has a pretty strong fan base is because of nostalgia, and from the die-hard Pink Floyd fans.
One of my biggest arguments that I have had ever since I saw this film is that movie musicals rarely work. A movie musical is restricted to a screen, and it doesn’t have this big, massive stage to feel grandiose. But, something that Roger Waters has been trying to do for years, and it’s a creative choice that I feel would be much better than the film, is make The Wall a Broadway musical. If it’s done well, and they are able to nail all of the visuals perfectly without having a Spider-Man style disaster, A Broadway production of The Wall would be a perfect idea, and I would be madly in love with an idea like that. The Wall is the perfect album to make a Broadway show, so I’m still a little confused why that isn’t the case. If there was a show playing, I wouldn’t even bother write this review for you, because I would just keep saying how you should go see the show instead. Screw all the Disney Broadway productions on or in development for Broadway. The Wall on Broadway is what should be playing in Times Square right now. I’d pay my hard-earned cash for an expensive Broadway ticket.
So let’s wrap this up. Pink Floyd – The Wall is a film that will continue to have its detractors and its fans for years and years to come. There are a lot of things that make The Wall cool, but like I said, it’s like watching a long music video that happens to be one of the best music videos ever made, but it’s not to the level of a film. Alan Parker called the film one of the worst experiences in his career, and even Roger Waters himself despises the film. If you’re a massive Pink Floyd fan, then I recommend you go check out the film if you can find it anywhere, but I wouldn’t recommend paying too much to watch the film. If you can’t find anything, then I recommend finding those clips of The Wall in Concert on YouTube, and continue to keep hoping for a Broadway production of The Wall. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I pray it will eventually.