The Wall Movie Review

Mired In Cosmic Excesses

By Kevin Thomas, Times Staff Writer

"Pink Floyd The Wall" is just about as pretentious and unpleasant an experience imaginable, and as such, is best left to those who loved "El Topo."

It was the unhappy notion of director Alan Parker to encourage Pink Floyd's Roger Waters to adapt its album "The Wall" for a film. Whatever merits "The Wall" may have had as rock music, it gains nothing from the movie it has inspired.

Waters places a burnt-out, drug-taking British rock star called Pink (Bob Geldof) in a Los Angeles hotel room where he trips out as he watches TV. Thus, the entire film is his unceasing nightmare. Old war movies on the tube trigger Pink's memory of his father's losing his life in World War II. Later on, Pink (young Kevin McKeon, a perfect match to the haunted, stricken Geldof) has a grim time of it at school - a cue for "We Don't Need No Education" ("All in all, you're just another brick in the Wall").

Still later are the pressures of rock stardom and the heartbreak of an unfaithful wife - strong images of castrating females here. The film climaxes with Pink imagining himself a Hitler reborn with his performances becoming frenzied Nazi rallies as he orders his mesmerized fans to put all Jews and homosexuals "up against the Wall". (On the street, his uniformed goose-stepping followers attack an interracial couple savagely, probably fatally.)

Floyd's songs serve as the film's entire narrative and all its sequences are intercut and repeated in surreal fashion. For further emphasis - as if any were needed - there are hellish animation sequences by Gerald Scarfe. It would seem that the point of all this frequently large-scaled, elaborately staged chaos is to suggest that Pink is the product and the prophet of his times in which we can perceive our own dark past and even darker future. At one point this child of the Apocalypse even identifies himself with Jesus Christ - arms spread wide as he floats bleeding in a Hollywood swimming pool.

No one would quibble with "Pink Floyd The Wall's" vision of the world as having grown progressively darker since the outbreak of World War II. Indeed, for many of us, the past four decades have spanned almost our entire lives. But how many of us would think, let alone dare, to identify our own fates with some apocalyptic vision of the world? For that matter, did Jimi, Janis, or Elvis?

At any rate, the hinderingly cosmic significance Pink attaches to his own miserable existence seems stupefyingly egotistical and downright silly.

It would seem, however, that Alan Parker goes along with Pink's excruciatingly tortured, megalomaniac vision of himself. Parker certainly wastes no opportunity, via oppressive close-ups, to rub our noses in a ceaseless parade of human suffering, degradation, and destruction.

"Pink Floyd The Wall" (rated R for reasons that ought to be clear by now) is a depressingly appropriate culmination of the wretched excesses that have marred Parker's "Midnight Express," "Fame," and "Shoot the Moon."

Macbeth's speech, "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" is often quoted but there couldn't be a more perfect description of Pink and "Pink Floyd The Wall."