Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Wednesday Ramble: Under the Cherry Moon
There's gonna be spoilers but you know you don't care.
Back in January, my life changed forever when Nafa put on Prince’s Graffiti Bridge as a joke and we ended up watching the whole thing. It turns out that the joke was on us. Last week, I demanded that we watch Under the Cherry Moon. You see, Nafa is an ardent Prince fan but he hadn’t until recently given his full attention to The Funky One’s films. I used to think Prince was cool but then he scared me off with that hat with the friggin’ gold chains obscuring his face. Plus, I despise funk music. Okay, I appreciate the musicianship and the opportunity to be a music nerd about it but I promise you that I am not a funky person. At least not in a musical sense.
In Under the Cherry Moon, two Miami sleazeballs, Christopher Tracy (played by Prince), a complete douchebag ladies’ man and his partner, Tricky (Jerome Benton), scam the rich ladies of the French Riviera to pay the rent. When Tricky learns of an heiress (Kristin Scott Thomas) who is set to inherit $50 million dollars, the two creeps move in for the kill. However, Tricky falls for Mary the heiress and ends up competing with Christopher for her affections. Their biggest obstacle (besides each other) is Mary’s father (Steven Berkoff), who has his own scheme in place for his daughter’s money. Throw in some murderous clowns and a doomsday device and you’ve got a right kerfuffle! Yeah, I made up that last bit.
The first thing I noticed about Under the Cherry Moon is that (and this was from just the first few seconds) it doesn’t completely suck. For a second there, I was enraged. How dare Prince make something that wasn’t insanely terrible and disastrously un-entertaining? I was accustomed to the atomic strength irony or unthinkable sarcasm that I felt when viewing Graffiti Bridge so I was taken aback by the similarities UCM has with real movies. I mean, God help me, I really liked this film. Hold up. Wait a minute. Just because it isn't a total turd doesn't mean this movie isn't awful in its own way. The lines of what is meant to be a joke and what is meant to be taken seriously are so blurry, you'll get a migraine.
Get ready for the biggest piece of trivia about this film: before Prince took over the direction of UCM, Mary Lambert was the director. Wait, why is that name familiar? She directed Pet Semetary and Pet Semetery II. But here comes the big one: Mary Lambert directed Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge! My mind is swirling now. Lost in the abyss. That’s the one where people’s Halloween masks become their real faces. Doesn’t this explain everything? I’m channeling Joe Pesci in JFK with this one, kids. No? Okay, let’s move on.
The spotlight, which is supposed to be on Prince, is stolen by Jerome Benton. Not only is this guy a charismatic and handsome dude, he is also blessed with perfect comic timing. Every scene he’s in makes the movie worth watching. He and Prince are a righteous comic duo and are totally fearless when it comes to getting a laugh. The gay over/undertones are jaw-dropping. I think Prince and Jerome are better in this movie than Morris Day and Jerome are in Graffiti Bridge. Even Kristin Scott Thomas gets in on the gags and she is totally brilliant. For example, ‘Wrecka Stow’:
I determined that Graffiti Bridge was heavily influenced by Solarbabies. Well, UCM wears its filmic inspirations on its frilly sleeve. I see lots of Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx in here. Plus, the place reeks with Fellini’s 8½. One thing that really helps the film with its faux-classic vibe is the fact that it was shot in color but was released in black & white. The cinematography by Michael Ballhaus is incredible and even more incredible is Steven Berkoff. Both Nafa and I were wracking our brains trying to remember where we’d seen this guy before. After the movie was over, IMDB told us it was the evil guy from Beverly Hills Cop. I was pretty embarrassed. How the fuck could I have forgotten that? Oh yeah, I’m trying to forget Eddie Murphy ever existed.
One part where the film fails miserably is Prince's and Kristin Scott Thomas' total lack of kissing chemistry. The minute these two lock lips, it's all over. It looks like Prince is trying to eat Thomas' face. Maybe that’s not entirely accurate. He looks like he’s trying to knock her unconscious with his beautiful lips. God help her, she's trying to keep up. I usually don't talk about a dude's kissing style but Prince, duder, you need to work on that action. These are seriously uncomfortable scenes to watch. Speaking of discomfort, where are the fucking musical sequences? This movie only has three, I think. Lame.
The fatal flaw however comes during the final ten minutes or so when the pacing takes a total shit. Instead of ending gracefully, we get a hokey boat chase. Mm... Hokey boat chase. Sounds delicious. When all seems lost, Prince goes for the tragic hero bit and it is a god damned riot. When he falls to the ground after getting shot, we see that the son of a bitch has been wearing high heels during the entire film. Un-fucking-believable. This was probably the most important moment and not just in the film. I’m talking about IN MY LIFE. Let’s put Robocop and Repo Man aside for a second here, Prince waits until the final moments of the film to reveal his footwear. Was this predicted in the book of Revelations 69:69 or what?
So what the hell is this movie? I’ll tell ya. It’s a serious arthouse farce that shouldn’t be taken seriously, seriously. Or maybe it’s a documentary. This is what Prince’s life is like every fucking day. Now I really want to believe that Graffiti Bridge is a documentary. If it was, I might be able to find peace (not funk) before I die. I will say a couple of things on Prince’s behalf. First of all, I can’t wait to watch this movie again. And secondly, the scenes in Under the Cherry Moon not graced by the presence of Prince nor Jerome Benton are lifeless and lame. It’s like those connecting bits in Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ movies where neither of them on the screen and everything comes to a complete standstill. So… hottest couple of 1986: Prince and Kristin Scott Thomas? WRONG! The answer is Prince and Jerome Benton, y’all.
Only two movies left, my friends: Sign 'o' the Times and Purple Rain. This is not going to end well.
This is from the movie premiere (embedding disabled by some jerk):