Pink Floyd The Wall [1982]

By any rational measure, Alan Parker's cinematic interpretation of Pink Floyd: The Wall is a glorious failure. Glorious because its imagery is hypnotically striking, frequently resonant, and superbly photographed by the gifted cinematographer Peter Biziou. And a failure because the entire exercise is hopelessly dour, loyal to the bleak themes and psychological torment of Roger Waters's great musical opus, and yet utterly devoid of the humor that Waters certainly found in his own material. Any attempt to visualize The Wall would be fraught with artistic danger, and Parker succumbs to his own self-importance, creating a film that's as fascinating as it is flawed. The film is, for better and worse, the fruit of three artists in conflict--Parker indulging himself, and Waters in league with designer Gerald Scarfe, whose brilliant animated sequences suggest that he should have directed and animated this film in its entirety. Fortunately, this clash of talent and ego does not prevent The Wall from being a mesmerizing film. Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof (in his screen debut) is a fine choice to play Waters's alter ego--an alienated, "comfortably numb" rock star whose psychosis manifests itself as an emotional (and symbolically physical) wall between himself and the cold, cruel world. Weaving Waters's autobiographical details into his own jumbled vision, Parker ultimately fails to combine a narrative thread with experimental structure. It's a rich, bizarre, and often astonishing film that will continue to draw a following, but the real source of genius remains the music of Roger Waters. --Jeff Shannon

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