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Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Main image of Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)
DirectorAlan Parker
Production CompaniesTin Blue Productions, Goldcrest Films International, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
ProducerAlan Marshall
ScreenplayRoger Waters
PhotographyPeter Biziou
AnimationGerald Scarfe
MusicRoger Waters
Music Performed byPink Floyd

Cast: Bob Geldof (Pink), Christine Hargreaves (Pink's mother), James Laurenson (Pink's father), Eleanor David (Pink's wife), Kevin McKeon (young Pink), Bob Hoskins (Pink's manager)

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In a Los Angeles hotelroom, Pink, a burnt-out rock star, remembers his past.

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After The Who's concept albums Tommy (1969) and Quadrophenia (1973) were adapted into successful feature films (by Ken Russell in 1975 and Franc Roddam in 1979), it wasn't surprising that Pink Floyd's equally ambitious 1978 double album The Wall would be given similar treatment, especially as it had already spawned a spectacular live show, for which the animated sequences by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe were originally commissioned.

Written by the band's Roger Waters, Pink Floyd The Wall is a strongly autobiographical account of the mental turmoil faced by fictional rock star Pink (Bob Geldof making his big-screen acting debut) as he tries to balance personal success and spiritual emptiness, exacerbated by memories of his long-dead father, killed in action in World War II, the futile sausage-factory processing of his schooldays ('We Don't Need No Education', a refrain spun off into a number one single in 1979), unsatisfying relationships with girlfriends and groupies and a burning resentment of his audience, the wall of the title being a metaphor for his loneliness and isolation from an increasingly alien world. Eventually, after using his public as a springboard to out-and-out fascism, he finally tackles his demons head-on in an all-animated trial scene that brings all the film's themes together and stretches Scarfe's inventiveness to the limit.

Alan Parker's third music-oriented feature is more in the vein of Ken Russell's lurid 1970s fantasies than the earlier Bugsy Malone (1977) and Fame (US, 1980). A relentless assault on the senses, both visually (graphic sex and violence, extreme close-ups of writhing maggots and melting flesh) and aurally (at its West End premiere, the soundtrack was turned up to ear-splitting levels), as a representation of a 95-minute howl of rage it's very effective indeed when actually watching it.

But, as with many of Russell's films, it shrivels on closer examination, rather like the 'male' flower in one of Scarfe's more striking images. Most of its metaphors, from the concept of 'the wall' to the recurring images of children being fed into meat grinders, are trite and obvious, and say little beyond their initial shock impact: it's Pink's derided schoolboy poetry writ large. Geldof does well with what he's given, but as there's no conventional characterisation (virtually all the script comprises the original album lyrics) it's hard to fathom what makes him tick, or if his problems ultimately amount to more than over-extended adolescent angst.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. The Wall (2:22)
2. Comfortably Numb (2:54)
Hambling, Gerry (1926-)
Hoskins, Bob (1942-)
Parker, Alan (1944-)