Revisiting Purple Rain's Original Reviews

Categories: Prince

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Prince in Purple Rain
Should you see Purple Rain? Yes. The answer is yes. Of course, that's the perspective from someone living in a world that has already been influenced by three decades of Purple Rain's greatness. It's a film recognized by all non-jive turkeys as an absolutely beautiful marriage between modern music and the moving image. But while most movie-goers today "get it," at the time of the film's release there were plenty of critics who clearly hadn't been purified in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. In the spirit of the film turning 30 this year, and its screening last night at Tarrytown Music House, we take a look back at the reviews of Purple Rain upon its 1984 release.

See also: Elvis Costello, D'Angelo, Chris Rock Pay Tribute to Prince - Carnegie Hall - 3/7/13

Pauline Kael , The New Yorker
"It's not difficult to see the attraction that the picture has for adolescents: Prince's songs are a cry for the free expression of sexual energy, and his suffering is a super-charged version of what made James Dean the idol of young moviegoers -- this Kid is 'Hurting.' And this picture knows no restraint...Prince is in charge and he knows how he wants to appear -- like Dionysus crossed with a convent girl on her first bender. It's pretty terrible (there are no real scenes -- just flashy, fractured rock moments), but those willing to accept Prince as a sexual messiah aren't likely to mind."

Cynthia Kirk, Variety
"Pic captures the essence of the current music scene, and the colorful Prince persona, very well indeed...Known for his sexually graphic musical imagery, most of Prince's songs in this film are relatively tame by his standards-and while the film is R-rated, nudity and language are only briefly vivid. Violence, including the suicide scene, is totally blood-free, a bit unrealistically so in the case of the suicide. Concert sequences, by Prince, The Time, Apollonia 6 and Dex Dickerson, are splendidly realized musicvid-type affairs, awash in purple-hued smoky lighting atmosphere and right-on camera work."

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"The film is like East of Eden replayed as a hyperbolic rock fever dream. There are a few sour, juvenile moments, but this is the rare pop movie that works the way a great rock & roll song does: It tells a simple, almost elemental tale and uses the music to set it aflame. Prince magnetizes the camera with The Stare -- a rivetingly narcissistic, come-hither gaze that's equal parts genetics, attitude, and eyeliner. A-"

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THANK YOU! Robert Ebert.  This is one of the reasons you are so sorely missed!!

Dena Lombardo
Dena Lombardo

30 years ago, wow feeling my age right nown.

epac666 topcommenter

Pauline Kael clearly "got it"...

DL Lopez
DL Lopez

still love it, I watch it about every couple of years!!! listen to Prince on Spotify

Dorine Walski
Dorine Walski

When I finally saw it on HBO, I fell asleep at the same spot twice. Never tried to watch it again.


More reasons to miss Roger Ebert. He often got it when no one else did.

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