Tuesday, July 31, 1934
The Michigan Daily
'Purple Rain' is no desert
By Phillip K. Lawes
F OR MOST of its hour and forty
minute length Purple Rain suc-
ceeds so well that one is tempted to take
it seriously, to judge the film by stan-
dards which are too stringent for its
genre. Purple Rain is a latter day
musical, which is to say, an elaborate
music video. Judged on those terms, it
comes close to being brilliant. Judged
as a feature film, however, it comes up
short in several areas.
Purple Rain is the largely
autobiographical account of the life and
times of rock music enfant terrible
Prince, and his Minneapolis milieu.
Prince, here called simply "The Kid,"
is a visionary-musician whose rise to a
stardom is hindered by a host of fac-
The Kid is involved in an intense
struggle for stardom with a rival ban-
dleader (Morris Day of The Time),
whose music is more accessible, and
who has lecherous designs on the Kid's
love interest, Appolonia (Appolonia
Kotero of Appolonia 6, formerly Vanity
6, a woman whose pituitary gland
deserves the Congressional Medal of
The Kid's affair with Appolonia is
also endangered by his desire and
ultimate inability to dominate her com-
pletely, as he does the members of his
The element which separates Purple
Rain from other films of its type, and
gives it a degree of substance, is its
depiction of the Kid's nightmarish
home life. His parents, played by
Clarence Williams III and Olga
Karlatos, are victims of a mad,
Prince plays the Kid, an up and coming rock 'n' roll star who has to deal with a variety of roadblocks to his success in
masochistic life, a couple whose career
frustrations and marital frictions have
combined to embitter them, trapping
them in an endless spiral of pain.
Williams and Karlatos play the
parents with a superbly grim inten-
sity-whenever they are on the screen,
the film is brought abruptly back to
painful reality, from the fantasy of the
club scenes. Williams, given the more
screen time of the two, is particularly
effective playing the father as a man
corroded and virtually eviscerated by
some horrible combination of inner
The movie's great failing is that it
never gives any explanation of the
father's behavior, never humanizes
him. We get references to him "ruining
his career and his wife's," but we are
never shown or told how. The parent's
behavior is profferred as the cause of
the Kid's excesses, and he must avoid
their fate at all costs. But the parents
are limited in their humanity, and the
whole film suffers from that limitation.
On the other end of the emotional
spectrum we find Morris Day, leader of
the Time and the Kid's rival. Day gives
the star performance of the film
playing an ostentatiously dapper letch,
living surprisingly well for a man of his
limited means. Day and his sidekick
Jerome Benton have an assured comic
touch, and real acting talent.
The same cannot be said for the
leads, Prince and Appolonia Kotero.
Prince is easily the weakest link in the
film whenever he is shown off the stage.
His limited range as an actor is most
easily seen when he has to show rage.
He usually does this by mincing
furiously back and forth across the
screen, his fists clenched, and his hair
billowing in his own slipstream.
Appolonia's acting also needs a lot of
work. Although she generally comes
off better than Prince does, many of her
scenes have a rather cheesy quality to
them. Scenes which are shared by the
two leads, however, do have a certain
electricity, generated in large part by
sheer erotic interest, and Appolonia's
vamp/slut/queen of the jungle war-
Purple Rain's best attribute is its
staging of the music. Many of its songs
are given the most dynamic presen-
tations of music on film. The opening
song "Let's Go Crazy," is performed in
a blaze of light effects and jump cuts
that gets the film off to a frantic start.
The pace is generally kept up for most
of the movie.
Unfortunately, the last twenty
minutes are far weaker than the body of
the film. The filmmakers have
miscalculated the appeal of the song
"Purple Rain," and in placing it so
close to the end of the narrative, they
have destroyed the film's climax.
The film never quite recovers from
the lull into which "Purple Rain"
places it, though the songs that close it
out, "I Would Die 4 U," and "Baby I'm
A Star," are strong, up-tempo num-
bers. The film ends in a substantially
weaker fashion then it started.
Despite its shortcomings, however,
Purple Rain is very entertaining sum-
mer fare, and is well worth seeing.
Prince stars as the Kid, and Apollonia Kotero plays Apollonia, the beautiful
lead singer of an aspiring rock band, in the surprisingly good 'Purple Rain'.