Monday, July 4, 2016

Cherry Cola

The next film in the Prince trilogy is Under the Cherry Moon (1986), and what a surprise. While Purple Rain was an almost autobiographical standard musical movie, this is a black and white nostalgic fantasia.

It is set in Nice. Prince is a lounge pianist, but with his buddy Tricky (Jerome Benton), he mainly lives off of the kindness of wealthy women. They set their sights on Kristen Scott Thomas, a madcap heiress who stands to inherit millions on her 18th birthday. Our friends crash her party, and both come to love her - without losing track of her wealth.

The look of this movie is something else. The lounge scenes look like something out of Casablanca (or at least trying to be). But there are scenes cruising along the waterfront in big American convertibles that look more like French New Wave - It was shot with Arri cameras, although I can't find any indication that they used the lightweight Arriflexes that gave some New Wave movies that verite look. Then there's the whole over-the-top decadence thing - especially Prince's costumes. He lives with Benton in a pretty dumpy apartment, but he wears fabulous outfits, and in one scene, takes a bath while Benton sprinkles rose-petals on the water.

Which brings us to the question of sex - that is, what is up with Prince and Benton? I'd like to answer with a thought experiment - Recast this movie w/ women in the Prince and Benton role, and a male heir instead of Kristen Scott Thomas. Then it's just a regular screwball comedy, right? Two gold-diggers (I see Eve Arden in the Tricky role), with slinky outfits and hearts of gold. So it isn't gay, it's just gender-bent.

I can see why some people would be disappointed in the music - there aren't a lot of great performances or classic songs. "Kiss" shows up in a truncated version on the soundtrack, for instance. But Prince plays several little jazz piano improvisations, especially early in the movie, that I liked a lot. It shows another side of his musical talent.

And speaking of talent, Prince also directed a lot of this movie. I hope he had fun. A lot of people trash this movie, but I think it's great - I suppose Graffiti Bridge goes back to the same-old, right?

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