Though I came of age in the 1980s, I never saw Purple Rain. It was too young to see that kind of film and when the New Wave moment had passed, I let it go.
To be sure, Prince had a storied musical career and continued to have hit songs, but arguably the height of his fame was his explosive debut upon the music scene in the mid-to-late 80s. It was then that his sense of style, music and sheer oddness was in perfect accord with the moment.
Some time ago I bought a compilation DVD set that had several movies I liked, and also Purple Rain.
I finally got around to watching it.
The first thing that struck me - and this is amusing I suppose - is how similar Prince's motorcyle was to the one my father owns from the same time period. No, Dad's isn't purple, but it's a Honda, has the same engine and starter noise and he got a similar-shaped fairing to go along with it. Serious nostalgia trip hearing that thing start up.
As to the film, I was immediately struck by its similarity to the Fred Astaire dance movies of the 1930s. That is to say, the plot (such as it is) is merely a bridge to get you to the musical numbers. Acting? Yeah, that's not what you came to see.
In that sense, the film is outstanding, not just in the quality of the entertainment, but in capturing the moment when it was made. Many films are obviously dated, but Purple Rain is frozen in a particular time, and it's interesting to go back and look at it. I wonder if people to whom the 80s are as distant as the 50s are to me get the same vibe.
One additional insight I gained was new respect for Prince's towering talents. He was a complete lunatic, but also a certified musical genius. He was one of those rare individuals who could combine composition, musicianship, showmanship and dance into a single dynamic package.
I have a limited tolerance for his works, but I cannot help but admire his masterpiece.
It is also a sad commentary on the current scene that no such individual who combines all of his attributes now exists. He was always unique, but not long ago it was expected that true artists had multiple talents, not just the ability to chant obscenities into a microphone.
Thinking back to his death, I can't help but marvel that he lived as long as he did. Such talents are usually not long for this world.
All of which is to say, I will watch Purple Rain again, not just to pick up on additional details, but to once again immerse myself in an increasingly distant and alien time.
And I will also savor a talent the likes of which we will not see again.