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Pink Floyd The Wall

Wow, what rotten timing.

I was all good and set to review this one a couple days ago, until the news came that Robin Williams tragically died of an apparent suicide. The death of a childhood icon knocked a lot of wind out of my sails, so I thought I’d wait a while. Then news came that Lauren Bacall died of an apparent stroke at the age of 89. Seriously, this year has been so fucking awful for celebrity deaths, and it’s only half over.

I’m deeply saddened that these two legends are no longer with us, and I wish I could give either one a more fitting tribute. Alas, that will have to wait for another time. I’ve rented a completely unrelated DVD and it’s due back tomorrow, so an honorable mention will have to do for now. That aside, let’s talk about Pink Floyd The Wall.

Aside from one time when I saw a cover band play “Dark Side of the Moon” in sync with Wizard of Oz, my experience with Pink Floyd has been strictly pedestrian. I’ve heard their biggest mainstream hits and I’m aware that Pink Floyd laser shows are a thing, but that’s it. As such, I basically went into Pink Floyd The Wall completely blind, knowing only that it was a classic movie based on Pink Floyd’s classic album, The Wall. Once again, the decision to go into a movie completely fresh turned out to be a bad move.

It would be an understatement to say that The Wall is quite unusual. As best I can figure, the “plot” concerns a punk rocker (played by actual British rock legend Bob Geldof) reminiscing about his life. Except that “Pink” (as he’s called in the credits) is lying around in some hotel room, completely alone, clinically depressed, and probably high off his ass. This means that the flashbacks — much like Pink’s mental state — are nearly incomprehensible for how frantic and illogical they are.

The dialogue and plot are both so rare and trivial that they may as well not exist. Yet the film still works because of two vital strengths. First is the Pink Floyd soundtrack, which helps create a dreamlike atmosphere through the band’s trademark surreal sound. Second are the visuals, which are absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish. Moreover, the editing stitches together the scenes in such a way as to provide thematic structure, rather than plot structure.

The movie (and Pink’s mind as well, more than likely) juxtaposes military imagery with scenes of young Pink at school. Scenes of Pink with his (ex?) wife are intercut with scenes of young Pink with his mother. And the visuals are presented in such a wide variety of ways, from makeup effects to practical effects, from dreamlike images to mundane activities, live-action and animated alike. Several intriguing motifs are also in play, such as hammers (which seem to represent fascism), and of course, walls (as in the lyric “just another brick in the wall”).

Between the visuals and the editing, the film makes several intriguing statements. The filmmakers seem especially eager to rail against war, education, police activity, and pretty much anything resembling any kind of authority. There’s also a whole ton of sexual imagery, some of which is positive and some of which is apparently negative, which intrigues me. It’s hard to tell, given the story’s defiantly non-linear nature, but it appears that Pink has gradually come to think of sex and intimacy as monstrous things (literally, given the animation). At the very least, he seems to have grown apathetic about it. The implication seems to be that so many years of touring and success have drained Pink of his humanity, which is very clearly depicted in Geldof’s performance. Guy’s overloaded with ennui. Moreover, there’s one scene in which Pink is with a groupie, and he doesn’t even seem to notice she’s there. I’ve read that the filmmakers intended to comment on the disconnect between artists and fans, which only grows wider as the artists get more successful, and that explanation makes all kinds of sense.

It’s not easy to keep writing about Pink Floyd The Wall and hope to do it any kind of justice, because the film is comprised entirely of images that no amount of words could adequately describe. It’s also hard to say whether the film is good or bad, partly because it was so clearly made by people who couldn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thought of it. This is a movie that could only have been made independently, with nothing to get in the way of the artists’ vision.

For better or worse (and I’d personally argue it’s for the better), this film is a bold work of cinematic art. It’s an absolute mindfuck that uses every filmmaking trick in the book to convey abstract messages and ideas, rather than to tell a story.

I’d recommend watching it just for the experience. Especially with a top-notch home theater and a whole lotta weed.

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