The Wall turns 40, a strange charm of a film marked by not ironic ideologies of Roger

from Filippo Mazzarella

Theatrical version of Pink Floyd’s musical masterpiece, between lights and shadows

In December 1979, Pink Floyd released their eleventh studio album, The Wall, a gigantic concept developed in an hour and twenty music split into twenty-six tracks on two LPs. The personal appearance of the enormous and depressing ego of bassist / vocalist Roger Waters, increasingly inconvenient in the crushing mechanism of pharaoh tours and hyper-tech, but also increasingly obsessed with the figure of ex-founder Syd Barrett (he isolated himself very young and long before the world for the sake of his severe mental instability) and deeply tormented (or at least he suggested …) by the elaboration of grief and traumas from his past (such as the loss of his father in World War II).

Despite his popularity, he was at the absolute top, the group has never been so inconsistent and with so little money: and while in 1978 guitarist David Gilmour and nearly torpedoed keyboardist Richard Wright were in France to record their solo debuts, and drummer Nick Mason was busy producing the ex-Gong’s LP Steve Hillage ‘a, Waters tried with the help of a psychiatrist to make all his torment more concrete in unicum, while simultaneously writing all the songs from “The Wall” and much of those that saw the light many years later in his first solo album, “Advantages and Disadvantages of Hitch Hiking” (1984) . Neck Obtorto forced to devote himself to his megalomania, the members of the band took care of the album, which became a bestseller in the number of almost thirty million copies (a number that is not even obtained today by adding the results from the first five). hundreds of the most popular albums …), followed by a very long concert tour, which was characterized by very sophisticated stage effects, and above all, ad hoc film screenings, including visionary cartoons created by the famous British designer Gerald Scarfe (also based on the music video for the epochal film “Another brick in the wall – part II”).

Due to the nature of the board concept (the format repeatedly tested by the group: see “Dark Side of the Moon”, 1973 or “Animals”, 1977), whose story was about isolation and the progressive building of a mental wall by a rock star in crisis, and this highly visual live performance, contradicting delirium Waters’ omnipotence decided to transform the work into a film as well. Which would not be, as it has already been in the past (“Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii”, 1974, by Adrian Maben), sui generis with a collection of live performances, but a real rock opera like other less fortunate examples from those times (such such as “Upiór na scenie / Upiór w raju”, 1974, by Brian DePalma; or diptych-Who composed from “Tommy”, 1975, by Ken Russell and “Quadrophenia”, 1979, by Franc Roddam). Co-opted for Alan Parker as producer and his trusted cinematographer Michael Seresin as director, Waters tried his hand at writing the script yet wanted to oversee the technical implementation.

But when is Parker? (started with “Fuga di Mezzanotte / Midnight Run”, 1979 and “Saranno Famosi / Fame”, 1980, in which the music was already a fundamental element) expressed his willingness to lead it personally, Waters stepped back, dealing only with reworking the ensemble’s original songs to adapt them to the course of the narrative. And it so happened that at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982, “Pink Floyd – The Wall” and the film that Parker made almost simultaneously, “Shoot the Moon / Shoot the Moon” (epic flap) were presented simultaneously: first, premiere world May 23, 1982 out of the competition; the second (already released in the US in February) in the competition. It is clear which of the two has left a larger imprint on the collective imagination. Locked in a hotel room in Los Angeles, the traumatized and intoxicated rocker Pink (Bob Geldof) also paranoidly retreats into himself, erecting a protective psychological wall where all events find space in the form of obsessive memories. his life: the death of his father (James Laurenson) in war in the first months of his life, difficult experiences with rigid educational institutions, a suffocating relationship with his mother (Christine Hargreaves), a destructive relationship with his ex-unfaithful wife (Eleanor David) and, ultimately, his increasingly ill intolerance towards audiences and groupies.

When his manager (Bob Hoskins) finds him in unbearable conditions and almost weighed down by an overdose, his staff trying their best to fix him up so that he can perform at the concert his fans are waiting for: but in his mind the performance first takes the form of a paranase rally in which he himself is a kind of dictator speaking to the masses from the stage, and then a trial led by a monstrous worm that ends, after all, significant people of his life witnessed the shame, the irrevocable sentence of the collapse of the wall and a return to real life and the world. Apart from a few dialogue fragments, “Pink Floyd – The Wall” is, as already mentioned, a surreal, brutal and visionary rock opera, the narrative fabric of which is entirely built on twenty-four out of twenty-six songs making up the album. (the beautiful “Hey You” And “The Show Must Go On”, although crucial for the development of the concept, remained for the purported redundancy reasons) with the addition of two unpublished songs “When the Tigers Broke Free” (excluded from the original line-up, later released only in the form of single and recovered here) and “5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)”, then fully completed on Waters’ first solo album, only a brief excerpt of which can be heard.

Songs are edited in a slightly different order and almost completely reworked in terms of recording and / or mixing (with the exception of “Nobody Home”, “Vera” and “Goodbye Cruel World” which remained identical to their original versions), vocally remaining the absolute privilege of Waters or Gilmour with the exception of “In the body ? ” and “Stop”, performed by the actual hero Bob Geldof (the musician himself, more and more known for organizing the first Live Aid than in the past with the Irish rock group The Boomtown Rats). Nevertheless, for Pink Floyd fans, the film immediately rose to the rank of an undisputed masterpiece that will be honored with multiple visions (Milan audiences will surely remember the months of selling out of the movie, which was shot in the now defunct Della Via Durini cinema since its premiere in September; a case that went on headlines in the case of Dolby Stereo playback at such high volume it literally shook the foundations of the central building it was in), in purely critical terms, the film has always been an object to be a grain of salt with: or for the excessive seriousness with which Parker held Waters’ always suspected philosophy of pain and the highly rhetorical “poetry” of his texts, or for the killing spike of psychoanalytic clichés (sometimes even visual: one above all, a huge meat grinder that reduces to pulp the oppressed students depersonalized by macabre masks of anti-identity) smoothly into final process didactics.

And if three levels of reading a movie (autobiography, media criticism and anti-authoritarian warning) have always left the time they found today on a more sophisticated “ideological” level (bad word and now obsolete: but so be it), it’s also hard to justify a contradictory description – and certainly in the wrong I believe – the society of the spectacle (and in this case the “rock” wagon), narcissistically (though self-critical) described as a mixture of “sick” minds and responsible for a kind of fatal and “fascist” exploitation of massification. A consensus-building system, which Waters said had never touched the hypothesis of irony, would generate (favor) the uncritical adherence of young people to “negative” models in a manner similar to that of authoritarian regimes. Nothing could be more stupidly superficial, moralistic, and to some extent even paradoxically reactionary.

Nevertheless, on the level of pure sensory experience, a combination of images from highly overworked photographs (Peter Biziou, then Oscar winner for “The Burning Mississippi – Roots of Hatred”, 1989, again by Alan Parker), metamorphic animated drawings created and supervised by Scarfe, evocative sets (Brian Morris) and undeniably the overwhelming mastery performed by Pink Floyd (top: the song “What Shall We Do Now?”, extended, titled and non-shortened version of “Empty Spaces”, shortened to an album due to the “physical” space of the old vinyl grooves), the film still retains its strange charm even after four decades and is still being rediscovered over and over again by new generations, now orphaned by such eccentric and sophisticated musical / cinematographic projects. Legend (not so much: these words were communicated without contradiction by an interested person in Gerald Scarfe’s book “The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall”, edited by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010) says that Steven Spielberg, present at the Cannes Show, commented as the lights came back on in the room “… what the fuck was that ?!” [t.l. “… che c*zzo era?!”]. And if Parker gives his own pro domo answer to that question, justifying the reaction of someone who witnessed “something no one has ever seen before,” it is much more likely that Spielberg’s words were taken in a more prosaic sense. literal. And that even today some neophytes, not only at the end of the vision, ask the same question. But that’s not bad.

May 23, 2022 (change May 23, 2022 | 13:01)

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