Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pink Floyd The Wall (film)

Pink Floyd The Wall  1:34:46
Video: Studio and on-location filming Autumn 1981
Audio: Studio recording 1982 
* Released in theaters 14 July 1982, on videocassette 1989

Additional musicians: Andy Bown (bass), Jeff Porcaro (drums), Joe Porcaro (military snare drum on Bring the Boys Home), Willie Wilson (drums), Freddie Mandell (organ), Bob Ezrin (keyboards), Lee Ritenour (guitar), Bobby Hall
Additional singers: Bruce Johnston, Tony Tenille, Joe Chemay, Stan Farber, Jim Haas, Jon Joyce, Islington Green School Choir, and the Pontardulais Male Voice Choir led by Noel Davis
Orchestras conducted and arranged by Michael Kamen

Music for the film produced by Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and James Guthrie
Sound Co-ordinated and Engineered by James Guthrie
Additional Music Engineers: Andrew Jackson, John McCluer, Nigel Taylor, Michael A. Carter
Music Editor: Brian Lintern
Film made at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, England
Certified 'AA,' length 8571 ft, running time 1.34.46

This entry for the Wall film follows a different pattern, due to the fact that it is not a standard Pink Floyd musical release. First is an entry for the entire film, relating its history, including relevant quotes from the people involved. The official synopsis of the film from MGM follows, which may have been written by Roger Waters, as it is quite accurate. There is also an entry for each song, just as if the soundtrack had been an album, except that there is also a note depicting the cinematic action taking place during that song. Each song that was newly recorded or remixed specially for the film is specifically noted as such, and the rest are taken unchanged from the Wall album. Finally, at the end is an excerpt of the complete credits for the film.

Roger Waters first conceived The Wall as a film at virtually the same time as the ideas came about for the album and the stage show. The original concept of the film was to incorporate footage of the band live in concert with animation sequences by Gerald Scarfe (who had designed the animation and graphics for the show), as well as additional studio scenes starring Roger himself.

Gerald Scarfe: "Roger saw right at the beginning that The Wall could be an album, a show and a film. Roger played me the raw tapes of his score and we began to discuss it as a movie. I had already done some work with the Floyd, and after a while it became clear that we should try to do The Wall on stage before attempting anything else. It was immensely complicated, with huge inflatables which I built hovering over the group and a vast wall of cardboard bricks which spanned the auditorium at the climax of the piece. Despite the complications it always went off like clockwork wherever it was performed. And the interesting thing was that the audience simply sat there, drinking in the spectacle." [Dallas 122-3]

Despite the incredible success of the Wall album, the EMI film personnel were reluctant to commit to the much more expensive venture a film would represent. However, serendipity struck when director Alan Parker phoned EMI on business, and, being a Pink Floyd fan, happened to inquire if they were planning to make a film of The Wall. The man Parker spoke to, Bob Mercer, suggested that he ring Roger Waters.

Ringing to offer encouragement, Alan was surprised when Roger soon asked him if he would be interested in directing the picture. Parker declined, busy with commitments of his own, but suggested that he could produce, while his protege Michael Seresin co-directed with Gerald Scarfe. And so the film had a creative team, while still without a financial backer or a distributor for the finished product. It seemed as if the band themselves would end up having to carry the cost.

To gain an idea of the visual imagery which Roger wanted for the film, Parker and Seresin flew to Germany in February of 1981 to view a Wall show.

** NOTE:  A scan of each page of Alan Parker's self-written account of The Making of The Wall is provided at the end of this entry. Click on each to bring up a larger, higher resolution copy to read.

Alan Parker: "It was impossible not to be impressed by the power of the proceedings. The concert was rock theatre on the grandest scale. Probably more grandiose and ambitious than it had ever been. The sound was awesome, the Floyd musically precise and Roger's primal scream, the fears of madness, oppression and alienation cutting through the giant theatricals. You couldn't fail to be astonished by the sheer scale of the mechanical undertaking and the colossal engineering problems that had been overcome to present it. Coming from the slow, almost archaic film process, to see everything — every sound fader pushed correctly, every hoist, every light, every cue hit on time, was wonderfully impressive. The high points for me were the guitar solo in Comfortably Numb that Dave Gilmour performed precariously perched on top of the wall, backlit, his weird surreal three-dimensional shadow bleeding across the faces of the 10,000-plus audience. Also I had a chance to see Gerry Scarfe's animation for the first time. The flowers making love I thought were brilliant, and when the marching hammers of oppression burst across the mammoth screen formed by the wall, in triptych, with three projectors synchronized together with the live show sound, it was a theatrical sensation I knew would be difficult to contain within the confines of a regular screen. Anamorphic Panavision and Dolby sound suddenly looked pathetic by comparison. Backstage it was just as impressive — no cliche rock and roll parties, but an ultra-cool and professional atmosphere, not entirely relaxed, a little edgy in fact, but people with a job to do, that happened to do with being rock and roll stars. Also of note was how everything was dominated by Roger's almost demonic control of the proceedings. Now you could put ten cameras on that, cut it together very quickly and we would have had a film we could then sell to cable and video. We [later] decided not to do that and instead make a regular feature film with a life of its own." [Dallas 123-4]

Meanwhile, Roger had produced a formal script, accompanied by copious visual aids courtesy of Gerald Scarfe, to show around to potentials investors. However, industry interest was very low in any film which put music before dialogue in importance. Alan Parker and his co-producer Alan Marshall, in an effort to keep the project on home soil, courted a number of British companies — most especially EMI — with no success.

Alan Parker: " I would describe the unusual nature of the film to the film moguls — major and minor — a fragmented piece with no conventional dialogue to progress the narrative, with music as its main driving force, they would stare back at me with total incredulity. It could have been a 100% British thing. The album was British, the group British and we're British. EMI had a chance to commit. I was asked to go round and talk to the EMI field force and tell them what kind of film it was. Alan Marshall and I did our usual tap-dancing routine, but then we were handed the usual EMI phrase, 'This is something we can't go with right now.' Yet another opportunity missed." [Dallas 124]

Parker eventually looked to Hollywood, and ended up making a distribution deal with David Begelman of MGM, with the Floyd themselves covering most of the production bills. Concert footage began shooting at the June 1981 London Wall shows.

Alan Parker: "The shooting was a total disaster. Michael and Gerry didn't quite gel as directors and I myself, quite useless as an impotent director masquerading as a not-too-helpful producer, began chain smoking for the first time in my life. From the start, the dilemma was always compromising the theatrics of the show for the needs of the film. The show, better organized and ticking along like a precision-made behemoth, couldn't be spoiled by film crews, not ever sure of what they were supposed to be doing. The fast Panavision lenses, needed for the low light levels, had no resolution, so the rushes looked like they'd been shot through soup. A Louma crane shot that scaled the wall to reveal the thousands in the crowd as Roger sang Hey You never got its complicated moves right — and with five live shows it only had five chances, all muffed. For myself, I'd shaken David Begelman's hand, and was beginning to think I might let him down. As I nervously walked back and forth during the show, watching the performance from a dozen different vantage points, inhaling the contents of three packs of cigarettes or sitting alone backstage in the peculiar astroturfed Floyd inner sanctum, it was obvious that it couldn't go on like this. Either we abandoned the film or I had to come out of the producer's closet and start directing proper. The Floyd, who were footing the bills themselves at this point, had come to the same conclusions." [Dallas 124-5]

And so Parker took over direction of the film, while Alan Marshall became the sole producer, and Gerald Scarfe took the title of designer. Michael Seresin dropped out of the project altogether.

Alan Parker: "I threw Michael the ball and expected him to run with it, but instead he just looked at the stitching and bitched about it." [Schaffner 247]

Due to the lack of success in obtaining suitable live footage, it was decided to create a film which utilized far more studio and on-location filming than was originally planned, combining it with Scarfe's animation.

Alan Parker: "...hardly any of the theatrical devices survived as the reality and surreality of our film took over." [Dallas 125]

Though the visual imagery would almost serve as a background to the music, the 'narrative' the scenes provided, and the nature of film media itself, would focus the viewer much more strongly on the story of the character 'Pink' than the album had. It soon became apparent that Roger was not the ideal choice to portray a character who shared many of his life experiences, but who reacted to them in a manner far more reminiscent of Syd Barrett than Roger Waters. Parker began to look for a leading man who could exhibit the dangerously insane quality which personified Pink, and found him in Bob Geldof, lead singer for the Boomtown Rats. And so the team was complete: Roger had written the script, Gerry Scarfe as designer together with Peter Biziou as director of photography would be responsible for the look and 'feel' of the film, Parker would direct, and Geldof would bring the character of Pink dangerously to life. It is important to emphasize that the final cut was very much the product of all these men, and no one person exerted an overwhelming influence on the film's development.

The next step was to begin developing ideas for the scenes that would tell Pink's story.

Alan Parker: "I took the blueprint of our script and began to formulate in my mind the images that would accompany the music to tell our story." [Dallas 128-129]

The truly key creative people at this point in time were Roger Waters, Alan Parker, and Gerald Scarfe. They met at the latter's Cheyne Walk studio to work out ideas. Parker comments on some of the problems that came up.

Alan Parker: "For Roger it was never a case of writing a script, it was about delving into his psyche to find personal truths whereas I was more interested in cinematic action. Indeed, if I veered too far he would say 'But that's not how it happened.' Gerry would quietly and unemotionally preside over these stormy 'special brew' days between Roger and myself, and when we left, would draw up the day's thoughts into a wonderful giant storyboard that grew larger and larger, gradually spreading across the walls of his studio." [Dallas
130; Karl Dallas doubts the first part of the recollection.]

Creative differences continued to escalate, until soon a situation developed which was later satirically characterized by Gerald Scarfe as: "...three megalomaniacs shut in a room together, each one trying to get
one's point across before the other one did. The whole film rose to a point of hysteria because of that." [Schaffner 250] The third megalomaniac, of course, being Scarfe himself.

Differences between Roger and Parker grew to the point where, just before shooting began, Alan insisted that he had to be left alone to get on with directing.

Bob Geldof: "Parker asked Waters not to come to the studio. The whole thing had deteriorated to the point where the atmosphere was sour and full of childish recriminations." [Miles] "[It was like] a mine field which had been sown with exploding egos... [I] just put my trust in Parker, who, I reckoned, knew what he was doing." [Schaffner 248]

Full-time filming began on 7 September 1981, and continued into November. (More filming details are included under individual song entries.) Parker sums up the period.

Alan Parker: "Roger went on holiday for six weeks. In that period I was allowed to develop my vision, and I really made the film with a completely free hand. I had to have that. I couldn't be second-guessed by Roger, and he appreciated that. The difficulty came when I'd finished. I'd been shooting for 60 days, 14 hours a day — that film had become mine. Then Roger came back and I had to go through the very difficult reality of having it put over to me that it was actually a collaborative effort. It wasn't a totally happy experience. There were lots of egos banging into each other, each of them fighting for his bit of the film. If you put three megalomaniacs into a room together there are bound to be sparks, but at the end of it I think we got something good." [Miles]

After shooting was over, the editing process began. This took far longer than the shooting itself, lasting into March 1982. Sixty hours of film (350,000 feet) had to be pared down to just under 95 minutes. A superlative editor, Gerry Hambling, was employed for the task. He eventually made approximately 5,500 editing cuts to get the job done. The editing process became another source of conflict between Parker and Roger, who had returned from his holiday and become very involved in the editing process.

Alan Parker: "We collided one day in the dubbing theater, both spouting venom like the judge in the animation. Frankly, our problems were never really about the film, but about ego and creative authorship. I think he was fearful that I wouldn't let him back in, and I was just as paranoid about the cut being tampered with or improved to death. Fortunately, Gerry Hambling was smarter than both of us, and continued to astound us with brilliant editing." [Dallas 130]

Roger Waters offered his own view of the editing process and explained why Hey You did not appear in the movie: "It was a nightmare making it. We just screamed and screamed at each other, particularly through the editing of the thing. Then, I dubbed it with James Guthrie reel by reel, and as we got to the end of each reel we would look at the reel and go 'Hey, that's not bad you know. It's a little bit busy, but it's okay.' But then when we put all 13 reels together and sat and watched it, I felt my heart going lower and lower and lower and sank into my boots. I found it almost unwatchable. Which is why I think it's so successful on video; 'cause you don't have to sit there and be bombarded with this unremitting assault on the senses like you had to in the cinema. In fact when we finished working on these 13 reels I potted off to the bar and Alan came through and we stood in the garden and both felt very depressed. We were hardly speaking when Stanley said 'What d'ya think?' and I said 'We've got to cut out reel 7.' [Reel 7 was] 'Hey You.' Just threw it away. The thing was just too long and too... on it's own it's great. It's been destroyed unfortunately. It was all kinds of stuff with lines of British Bobbies in riot gear... lots and lots of rioting. Which was very prophetic. This was three years before the Brickstone riots which was the first time their new riot gear was used." ["Behind the Wall" with Ray White 19 Jul 90]

Alan Parker: "Just because Roger and I didn't necessarily get on, it doesn't mean to say we didn't do a good piece of work." [Schaffner 247]

Roger offered his opinion of the making of the film: "The most unnerving, neurotic period of my life, with the possible exception of my divorce in 1975. Parker is used to sitting at the top of his pyramid, and I'm used to sitting at the top of mine. We're both pretty much used to getting our own way. If I'd directed it—which I'd never have done—it would have been much quieter than it is. That's one of the reasons I liked the idea of Parker doing it. He paints in fairly bold strokes; he's very worried about boring his audience. It suits us very well, because we did want a lot of this to be a punch in the face." [Rolling Stone 9-16-82]

The animation, Gerald Scarfe's department, was one of the most technically difficult parts of the film, and one of the most impressive. Scarfe's contribution to the final feel of the film can hardly be underestimated. Work on the animation began in 1979, first for the stage show and then for the film. Fifty people worked on the animation over that period, to create a total of 14,000 hand-colored cels, or under 20 minutes of total animation.

Scarfe declined to use any automated process in the animation: "They had to be drawn by hand because, up to now, that's the only satisfactory way to draw organic movement. Even if you had a computer suitably programmed, the drawings would still have a stylized quality." [Dallas 131] "[I had to adapt my style] from Sunday Times scratchy pen approach to something that could be copied by other artists." [Dallas 131] "The reason that Disney drew the way he did was because everyone could draw like Disney, at least everyone who could draw. So to do this I had to explore other areas of my work, which was very exciting." [Dallas 131]
"[With animation] you can change an elephant into a dustbin, into a beer bottle right before your eyes." [BD 31]

Gerald Scarfe: "You could say that the collaborative process has been filled with angst. But possibly out of that will come something rather special. After all, we're only an artist, a musician and a film maker. I wonder if Picasso and Stravinsky would ever have had these problems?" [Dallas 130]

By the time the film was premiered on 14 July 1982, it had cost a total of £7 million. While critical reaction varied, it was a popular and successful film, even breaking box office records at some venues. The sound of the feature was superlative, having been carefully copied direct from the original master tapes. The Wall is a very heartfelt piece of music, an expurgation of a number of mental demons which exist inside many people, but ignored by most. It may be that people who reject the epic as 'self-pitying' simply have closed off their emotional core to the extant that another person's cry of pain and frustration cannot reach them. One support for this theory exists in Bob Geldof, who initially dismissed Pink Floyd as 'overblown and old hat' and certain themes of The Wall as 'a load of bollocks.' However, the close contact with the subject matter that being the star of the film engendered brought a different perspective.

Bob Geldof: "The dense moods which The Wall brought down on me carried an insight into depths which were normally buried." [Schaffner 248] "It had an amazing impact on me — I'm rarely shocked into silence." [BD 31]

Roger Waters: "It does say quite loudly that it is bad for us when we're isolated from one another and frightened of one another. And the film gets criticized for that — either by people who say it's not true, or by people who think it's self-evident and therefore not worth saying. I believe that it is true and it is worth saying." [Rolling Stone 16 Sep 82]

Alan Parker: "Critics should be appalled by this movie... I never said this would be a nice safe film. [1982] I feel like I've been in a room for the past year, just screaming continuously. That's no easy feat. I'd like to relax now."

After the film's release, Karl Dallas talked to Roger about it, and asked him what he thought of Parker's directing job.

Roger: "The man's a very good technician. He really is. And by God he gets things done. He shot the thing in however long it was, six weeks or something. If I knew what I know now—the main thing I've learned about films is that when you're making them— first of all I looked at the rushes every day, almost every day, and then slowly as you go through the editing you assemble stuff and then you see it a reel at a time, generally speaking, and then you may put one or two reels together or three; you tend not to look at the whole thing together. The dubbing was done one reel at a time. And what may look terrific as one reel is not necessarily good in the context of the whole film—reel five to me looked great but it may not be good between reel four and reel six. My main criticism of the film is that there aren't any dull moments and consequently every bit of it becomes dull. It's not dynamic. It goes chchchch, then it goes khkhkhkh, for 90 minutes. Knowing what I know now I would not have allowed that to happen. I didn't see it happening. I think you cannot make a good film if every minute of it looks good on its own. I think that's the nature of things. You've got to have, you know, periods that look like nothing, until they're in context. Parker has a terrible fear of boring his audience. People in retrospect have said that you get that from people who've worked for years and years on commercials, because that's the whole thing, get the bloody audience gripped. It's like making the three-minute single, you know. It's like people would listen to my stuff in the old days and think: 'that's no good, you don't get the hook in the first 15 seconds. Forget it!' Well it's a bit like the same thing with making commercials, you've got to get them and then hold them for 20 seconds. They get terrified, consequently their films are like that the whole time, one thing after another after another and it actually makes it more difficult to become involved with the thing rather than less difficult." [Dallas 129]

Several years later, Roger again commented on his feelings about the film.

Roger: "When it was finally put together, I watched the film, and I'd been dubbing it for the previous three weeks, reel by reel. Each reel on its own I thought was quite interesting, but when I saw all 13 reels together, I felt that it lacked any real dynamic. It seemed to start bashing you over the head in the first ten minutes, and it didn't stop until it was over; there was no quiet time. But my most serious criticism was — although I  thought Bob Geldof acted very well and that Alan Parker directed the film with great technical competence — at the end of the day, I felt 'who gives a shit.' I wasn't interested in this Pink character; I didn't feel any empathy for him at all. And if you can't care about Pink, then you can't care about his concerns about the totalitarian nature of the iconography of rock 'n' roll... even about the dead father in the war and all. And if I go to the cinema and I don't care for any of the characters, it's a bad film." [Schaffner 251]

Nick Mason: "I liked the film enormously, I thought Alan Parker was terrific." [Miles]

Pink, a Rock and Roll performer, sits locked in a hotel room, somewhere in Los Angeles. Too many shows, too much dope, too much applause; a burned out case. On the TV, an all too familiar war film flickers on the screen. We shuffle time and place, reality and nightmare, as we venture into Pink's painful memories and inevitably into his madness.

Our hero is a baby born in the Second World War at the same time as his father is killed in action at the Battle of Anzio, and so Pink grows up never knowing him. His mother devotes her life to her son, overcompensating for the loss of the father and suffocating Pink with her love.

He attends schools that subjugate the children rather than educating them. He is exposed to teachers who chastise and suppress children, seeking to free their own miserable frustrations. His response to these alienating experiences is to slowly build a defensive 'wall' around his feelings, to shelter him from further hurt. Pink marries his childhood sweetheart because she is conveniently available.

The boy has grown up and become a Rock and Roll performer, part of a band, attracted by the 'power and fame' which help to insinuate him against his nagging feelings of separation, not only from his wife and friends, but also from himself. This is a life of diminishing returns. Like an addict with his junk, Pink needs bigger and bigger fixes of applause.

But it's never enough. The endless separations build the wall still higher between Pink and his wife, until the inevitable happens — while he is away on tour, she falls in love with another man. The final brick in Pink's wall.

Pink locks himself in his room with a handful of pills and a groupie. He destroys the furniture and frightens the girl away. Alone now, drugged and with only the TV for company, he retreats more and more into himself, the 'wall' is now complete. Totally withdrawn from the real world, his imagination wanders into the further extremities of his nightmare, his worst fears, his probable madness.

He imagines himself as an unfeeling demagogue, for whom all that is left is the exercise of power over his unthinking, uncaring audience. His manager, concerned as always about the forthcoming show, breaks into the hotel room and a doctor revives Pink enough to get him out of the hotel and into the limousine. But Pink has long gone. He hallucinates wildly as the real world vanishes, and he conjures up an evil spectacular, a Rock and Roll Nuremburg with himself as its leader: the accumulation of the odious excess of his own world and the world around him.

It is all too much for the core of human feeling, and he rebels. STOP! His internal self-trial follows, as the witnesses of his past life, the very people who have contributed to the building of the wall, come forward to testify against him. The judgment is that he must 'tear down the wall' before his isolation leads him into the moral decay of his nightmares.

Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer Presents
An Alan Parker Film
Pink Floyd The Wall
By Roger Waters
Designed by Gerald Scarfe
When the Tigers Broke Free Part 1
In the Flesh?
Thin Ice, The
Another Brick in the Wall part 1
When the Tigers Broke Free Part 2
Goodbye Blue Sky
Happiest Days of Our Lives, The
Another Brick in the Wall part 2
What Shall We Do Now?
Young Lust
One of My Turns
Don't Leave Me Now
Another Brick in the Wall part 3
Goodbye Cruel World
Is There Anybody Out There?
Nobody Home
Bring the Boys Back Home
Comfortably Numb
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting for the Worms
Trial, The
Outside the Wall

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