The Sunday Cult Film Corner: The Big Swinging Dick Rock Musical Double Bill! “Tommy (1975)” and “Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)”

16 Mar

Hey ho, my little urchins.

Can’t talk right now. Currently having to get ready for a report that’s due this week. all about feminism, post-colonialism, linguistics and deaf culture (yup this bit is actually true!). somehow have to make it into a piece that make sense. Lots fo fun for all the family.

Oh, but i haven’t forgotten you, my dear blog read, all 6 of you! Most of you might be over at Bíó Paradis watching “the Masque Of Red Death,” (If not, then you really should). And i think that for this week’s edition of The sunday Cult film corner, we need some big singing rock dick action. And not just one big dick, but two swinging rock dick musicals completed with Marshall stacks that go all the way up to 11!!

First up is probably the quintessential rock opera film. the one that all the other are measured against. Of course it’s TOMMY. ;ade in 1975 and based on the 1969 concept album of the same name by The Who it stars the Who’s Roger Daltrey as the eponymous Tommy. as a kid Tommy’s his Dad (Robert Powell) is a soldier presumed dead, and his mum (Ann Margret) is now shacked up with Uncle Frank (Oliver Reed). After a traumatic experience that renders him deaf, dumb and blind, he undergoes a life of purgatory before he find out that he’s a totes expert at playing pinball. And then things start to get really interesting!!

TOMMY was directed by Ken Russell, who with the likes of The Music Lovers, The Devils and Mahler, had already cemented his credentials as a maverick director not afraid to push the boundaries. But with TOMMY he really went on an utterly deranged portrayal of a rock opera film as critique of religion, 20th Century pop culture and mass entertainment. I mean, who would think that the best way to satarize banal TV commercials would be to have you lead actress cavort in baked beans, chocolate and soap detergent? The rest of the film is utterly overripe with the cream of film and rock stardom – Tina Turner, Elton John, Jack Nicholson, as well as The Who themselves. With the film shot in an episodic style, Russell keeps everything loose in terms of plot and movement almost to the point of slackness. But what it might lack in brevity and drive, he more that makes up for it in grand guignol excess. Everyone looks like they’re off their face and having a whale of a time doing the film.


Next up is a film that also contains disturbing imagery, but a far glossier affair. PINK FLOYD: THE WALL is a filmic rock opera based on the 1979 concept album “the Wall” by Pink Floyd. Directed by Alan Parker it stars Bob Geldof as Pink a world-famous rock star. Obviously burnt out and depressed to the point of suicide, Pink holes himself up in isolation and hedonistic squalor in a swank hotel room. Alone to his thoughts, he reminisces about his life, his overbearing mother and his father who died in WWII when he was a baby. He remember his school days and his early of sex, drugs and bad relationships. To protect himself against the evils of the outside world he build the metaphorical wall of the film’s title but will he be able to break down this wall and free himself from his self-imposed hell?

Now I’m not that huge a fan of Pink Floyd the band (Something that I know will impress many of my friends lol), but for a rock opera film THE WALL is definitely a visual spectacle, with nary any dialogue in its entirety. The director, Alan Parker, like fellow Brit directors Tony & Ridely Scott, cut his teeth in making commercials before breaking into film. And you can see this in THE WALL. many scenes are full of arresting imager that is  beautifully lit and shot, with a soft focus sheen. Much of THE WALL is full of metaphorical symbols, animated scenes (managed by Gerald Scarfe) and composed juxtapositions, such as scenes of riots at one of his concerts with that of a WWII war scene, or equating the grind and dogmatism of high school with that of a meat grinder. The loneliness, insanity and nihilism of Pink is manifested in a barrage of surreal scenes. The film seeks to compare is psychological trauma he has experienced with that of the psychic trauma  experienced by society in general in the late 20th century, overwrought with the nuclear threat of the cold war and decadence brought on by capitalistic overindulgence. Then there’s the imagery equating the idolatry aspects of mass entertainment with that shown in fascism.

while it’s often hard to follow, there is a hint of a narrative in THE WALL. And while the metaphorical messages are at best heavy-handed (And at worst 6th form student naive), you can’t deny that it for the best part succeeds in using arresting imagery to jolt and shock you out of your senses. Despite what they say, you don’t need to be drunk or baked to get something out of this film.

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Posted by on March 16, 2014 in Film


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