Pink Floyd The Wall at 30: Would Pink Have a Facebook Page?
Rock stars: They're different from us. That's why we love them, and that's why sometimes they can fool themselves into thinking they're Hitler.
Photo by Jim Bricker Roger Waters at Toyota Center, November 2010
That, as far as I can tell, is the message of Pink Floyd The Wall, Alan Parker's 1982 film based on the British rockers' 1979 album The Wall. Despite the group's name in the title, the movie is very clear about its real author: "By Roger Waters" runs right after the title card. With Waters in town to rebuild the Wall tonight at Toyota Center, I thought I'd watch Parker's movie, which I had never seen before, for the first time as a little homework.
Pink Floyd The Wall stars Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats, who not long after the film was released would have an attack of conscience in Ethiopia and found Live Aid. (Just think, this movie could have starred Bono.) Pink loses his father to WWII, is saddled with a mother who smothers him when she's not emasculating him by taking other men into her bed, and survives a nightmarish British boarding-school childhood to emerge as a rich and famous rock and roll star.
The movie opens with Pink sequestered in a ritzy L.A. hotel room, where he appears to have been for some time. Later, the camera flashes on Pink at a piano while his wife wanders by to take up a few moments of her brief screen time (the rest is spent in bed with another man), but that's about all the time Pink Floyd The Wall spends on how Pink got to be famous, although I guess you have to count the early scene based on the real-life riot at an L.A. Pink Floyd show in 1975. The groupie scene set to "Young Lust" seems to be in the movie mostly to give several young actresses a chance to flash their boobs.
Pink is a very passive rock star; he's not even that interested in sex. Granted, when we find him he is in the throes of a pretty severe hit of narcotics -- although we never see him shoot up on camera, it's certainly implied -- but besides fumbling around with a groupie played by Val Kilmer's future wife, his biggest non-hallucinatory action in the film is the postcoital rage he flies into after they're done. Then he ODs, and is taken to the hospital to the strains of "Comfortably Numb."
The doctor's shot stirs up something in Pink, and thanks to the movie he had been watching on TV -- a real 1955 British WWII movie called The Dam Busters, which I'm guessing commemorates the same battle where father died -- he hallucinates himself as a Hitler-esque dictator who uses an anthropomorphic ball-peen hammer with compass-like legs as his swastika. "Are there any queers in the theater tonight," he asks in the reprise of "In the Flesh." "That one looks Jewish!"
At this point I confess I had a hard time figuring out exactly what was going on; some have interpreted the Triumph of the Will-style "In the Flesh" rally as what Pink sees while he performs a concert, or (like much of the movie) it all could be in his head. Also, as he is being wheeled into the hospital, Pink rapidly ages into a grotesque resemblance of his former self, and there are lots of maggots and worms. It's pretty gross.