PINK FLOYD THE WALL
Review by Michael Jacobson
Director: Alan Parker
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: December 2, 1999
Pink Floyd The Wall is
many things to many different people. If
you’re not a fan of the group, there’s probably nothing about the picture
that would interest you. If you are
a fan, chances are you’ll find something you like about it.
You might even embrace it as a masterful, surrealistic, musical journey.
I’ve watched the picture several times myself, and unfortunately, the
more I do, the less I see in it.
Some have called the movie a feature length music video.
For me, it’s even less than that…more like a feature length
storyboard. Shot after shot, it
looks like one drawing after another. And
there’s nothing wrong with such meticulous preparation…as long as it’s
remembered that the storyboard is supposed to guide the course of the film, not
Don’t get me wrong…I love Pink Floyd, and I love the
album this film sprang from. So
much so, in fact, that I wish I could talk about the album instead, which is an
amazing concept piece, filled with psychological clues and non-linear
storytelling. It simply didn’t
translate to the screen as well as I would have hoped.
The movie just seems like a jumbled, fractured mess, plowing through
image after image, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats and Band Aid fame plays
Pink, who represents partially each of Pink Floyd’s lead men, Roger Waters and
Syd Barrett. As Waters’ often
strange, mournful, and powerful music plays along, the film gives clues to
Pink’s past and present. We see
images of him growing up, haunted by the death of his father in the war,
troubled by an oppressive school system, his failed marriage.
Most of this is played out in short, broken segments, with
far-from-subtle visual imagery, such as Pink in a Christ like pose in his
swimming pool as the water turns to blood, or the best non-animated sequence,
the maze-like factory representing the schools, where kids march along on
conveyor belts, lose their faces, and end up in a big meat grinder.
Presently, Pink is a burned out rock star who, presumably
after too many drugs, sits alone in a hotel room, only to be artificially
revived for his next show, which turns into a nightmarish Fascist rally of anger
and bigotry. All of this
accumulates in the famous trial sequence at the end, whereby a not-too-sane Pink
sits helplessly as those who have oppressed him have one last go at him.
What happens to him after that? Your
guess is as good as mine. Even
Roger Waters confesses he doesn’t have a clue.
I like the idea of the picture, and there are some strong
and memorable visuals in it. The
animated sequences, supervised by Gerald Scarfe, are still amongst the best
I’ve ever seen (and a good reason to own the film on DVD, so you examine his
work frame by frame). The main
problem seems to be the lack of any semblance of coherent structure. Not even the music is able to provide any sense of direction.
It’s almost like the chef who gets his first crack at the spice rack,
and wants to use a little of everything. Each
one is tasty, but mix too many together, and what you have is no longer
And the songs, which are great, seem to actually hurt the
film’s momentum at certain places. They
tend to dictate how long or short certain pieces are, and as a result, sometimes
the film gets into stretches where it looks like pure padding.
And the editing decisions didn’t help much, with too many repetitious
instances. If a scene needed to be
a little longer, sometimes bits of film already seen were just cut back into it.
After watching the supplemental material on this disc, I
get the feeling that what hurt the picture the most was the presence of three
talented but headstrong artists vying for control. There was Waters, the mastermind behind the album and writer
of the film, Scarfe, who was employed to oversee the design of the picture, and
Alan Parker, the director, who wanted to make the film less fantastic and more
cinematic. I’m not sure any of
the three were on the same page when they made the film, and it certainly would
explain why the end results are a little muddled.
Naturally, the entire theme of The Wall is the way people can build up too many protective barriers
around them, to the point where they become imprisoned by them.
Pink’s world has become such a nightmare of complete isolation and
alienation. Perhaps it’s only
appropriate that the movie presents itself in such a way that it’s hard to
really like or identify with it. Maybe
the style itself is meant to be just another brick in that wall.
The anamorphic transfer is quite good, too, with the film boasting a mix of color schemes, lighting techniques, and other visual degrees. One or two darker sequences are a bit murky and show some grain, but then again, given the nature of the scenes in relation to Pink’s state of mind, seem appropriate enough. A quick comparison of the feature with the clips from the trailer and documentary demonstrate the attention to quality CST paid to this transfer. Plus, this was the first time I’d ever seen the movie in a widescreen presentation—much, much better.
Just the commentary track with Roger Waters and designer
Gerald Scarfe would have been outstanding, but this disc is loaded to the gills.
Also included are the original documentary “The Other Side of the
Wall” along with a brand new 45 minute retrospective, featuring interviews
with Waters, Scarfe, and Parker. There’s a trailer, the often heard of but rarely seen
deleted “Hey You” segment, the music video for “Another Brick in the Wall
Part II”, song lyrics, production stills, and excellent animated menus with
sound. As a bonus, on each menu
screen that shows a picture from the movie in one of the corners, push ‘9’
on your remote control for an extra little surprise.
In short, this extras package is a Pink Floyd fan’s dream come true.
Pink Floyd The Wall is an incredible DVD—I’m just not as enthusiastic about the film itself. For fans of the movie, it’s not even a question whether or not to buy this disc—it’s a must-own. Given the terrific soundtrack and plentiful, fun features, I’d wager only those who don’t like Pink Floyd at all would find nothing here to their liking.