A Filmic Semi-Diversion

Child of the ’80s though I am, I somehow managed to get through that decade and the two-plus succeeding ones without having seen Purple Rain, in spite of loving Prince and having thoroughly enjoyed one of his performances right after college (in which his numerous costume changes enhanced even further some already amazing dancing). I remedied that gap this weekend, and wow: it was bad. Incredibly bad; shittily so, in fact. Not that I was expecting a life-altering experience, but– well, I’ll just lay my general dumbfoundedness out on the table, and will be glad to engage in exchanges of disbelief and wry laughter, should anyone care to take part.

Source: Nicolas Genin

But as I find happens frequently when I’m involved in reading/viewing/discussing multiple cultural products at the same time, a weird thread or connection between them peeps out every now and then. In this case, Prince’s mode of dress during his Purple Rain phase– and the periodic plot and/or motivational gaps in the film that threw me into brief bouts of confusion– seemed a perfect match for the baroque style of the book I’m currently reading, José Lezama Lima’s Paradiso.

Given, the latter work is in no way crappy, campy, or even potentially culty. But I could picture The Purple One reading some of these flowery passages in his frilly poet’s blouse, and being entirely unconcerned about the fact that, say, a conversation between our young hero and his classmate, whose favorite pastime is poking his fellow students in the butt with his pen, involves dialogue more appropriate to foppish university philosophes who use approximately 75% more words to express their confused thoughts than are necessary. It’s true; youths often don’t have a very good sense of what they’re saying, or even trying to say, and might comically puff up their language to try and make themselves sound more sophisticated– and so, although Lezama’s probably making a point with all of these words, so far, I’m unconvinced by his characters’ ownership of their own verbiage.

To link back to another film, my experience with this novel up to this point is similar to the emperor’s reaction, in Amadeus, to a performance of one of Mozart’s pieces: “There are simply too many notes.” I’m having some nebulous thoughts about why this is so for Paradiso and not for David Foster Wallace, whose style is sometimes jam-packed, but without using one word too many. I’ll have to get to the end of Lezama’s text, though, before I’m willing to take that thought any further.

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4 comments

  1. lostgander

    I've never watched Purple Rain either, though I'm also a child of the 80s. Based on your reaction, I think I'll continue holding out. I was never a Prince fan, but a friend of mine in college was obsessed with him and dressed up in a Purple Rain era costume for Halloween one year. The likeness was stunning.

  2. Special K

    Oh, please say he was wearing the buttless pants, just for boldness' sake! (Admittedly, I wouldn't want to take too close a look, regardless of who was wearing them. But in very limited circumstances, I would support the gesture.)

  3. lostgander

    No buttless pants. I think his boldness stopped short of public nudity. But otherwise his look was authentic.

    Speaking of buttless pants, though, there used to be a band in South Carolina that engaged in mockery of the local racist homophobic culture. They were mostly punk and hardcore musicians playing cover songs of 80s guitar rock. The lead singer routinely wore buttless leather pants on stage, and he made sure to flaunt it. It's really hard to erase that kind of mental image.

  4. Special K

    OK, that qualifies as a case of my supporting the gesture– but fearing to think what's going on in someone's nether regions, after wearing leather pants with a rear view on a hot concert stage for what was probably a significant amount of time.

    I'll lift a lighter in solidarity…

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