Andrew Anderson is returning to the films made by rock stars so you don't have to
Prince might have passed on to that big sex palace in the sky but he remains the reigning sultan of pop testosterone. Not only is his music awash with more spunk than the seas around a sperm whale during mating season, he also made some ballsy career moves while he was with us. Take his first feature film Purple Rain. Now, if you or I were a musician with just a couple of hits behind us and zero acting experience we probably wouldn’t make it a condition of our new record contract that we get to star in our own film. But that’s what the little man with the big…uh, talent…did.
In spite of its obvious flaws (Prince can’t act and the plot is stupid), Purple Rain was a huge success. That was partly because of the soundtrack, which includes songs like ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and of course ‘Purple Rain’, but also because it was very much in tune with the times – the film screams 1980s.
After Purple Rain Prince kept making films with diminishing returns. First came Under The Cherry Moon (1986), which isn’t very good (Prince directs, no one watched it). Then a concert film Sign o’ The Times (Prince on stage, no one watched it). Warner Bros were clearly unable to spot the pattern, because even after two flops they still allowed Prince to make a fourth film. Titled Graffiti Bridge, this one would pick up the story where Purple Rain left off. What could go wrong?
Worryingly, Prince was allowed to come up with the concept and write the script himself. There’s no denying Prince’s musical talent, but as every archive TV interview with him shows he wasn’t exactly in sync with reality: this was a man living in a self-built bubble of odd dimensions and epic proportions. As a result, we get a film that feels as though it was written by someone that only has a passing acquaintance with human behaviours, motivations and speech patterns (that description makes Graffiti Bridge sound more interesting than it is).
But at least we can look forward to lots of sexy bits, right? I’m afraid not. This film was released in 1990, several years after Prince’s infamous ‘Black Album’ melt down which saw him “find God”. He explained his position in an interview with Rolling Stone: ‘When I talk about God I don’t mean some dude in a cape and beard coming down to Earth.’ So, that’s that cleared up.
The outcome was that Prince decided to stop being so damn sexy in order to avoid damnation. In the press for Graffiti Bridge he described the film as ‘not violent’ and added that ‘nobody gets laid’, which is rather like making a Harry Potter film without the wizardry or a Christian Bale vehicle without painful overacting. Let’s face it: the violence and the sex were pretty much all Purple Rain had going for it (aside from the badass tunes, of course).
Let me sum up Graffiti Bridge so far: no sex (the one thing Prince is good at), no violence (the one thing that would have made it interesting), a Prince-penned script (which is bound to be terrible) and the whole thing is directed by Prince (who already proved he can’t direct). It’s not looking good, is it?
So, imagine my surprise when I popped in the DVD and discovered that it was actually amazing! No, I’m joking, this film is very shit. Even the DVD title screen somehow made me angry – that’s how bad it is. But we’ve come this far, so let’s talk about what happens in Graffiti Bridge.