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Classic movie review: 'Pink Floyd The Wall' (1982)

"All in all you're just a-nother brick in the wall," or so they say, in Pink Floyd The Wall.
"All in all you're just a-nother brick in the wall," or so they say, in Pink Floyd The Wall.
Movie still

Pink Floyd The Wall


Rock star, Pink, wallowing in his hotel room, is in a pit of despair. Nightmarish hallucinations mix with devastating moments from his past, shedding light on what brought him to this point in his life, a life that has left him dead inside, and either unable or unwilling to connect with anyone. He has managed to detach himself from the world by building a wall between himself and the rest of humanity. And within the confines of that wall he has grown comfortably numb.

A visual poem
More visual poem than narrative-driven story, the film, Pink Floyd The Wall, employs a clever integration of live-action and animation to depict the downward spiral of a man in crisis.

In this surreal world of brutality and paranoia, we witness the death of Pink's father, a soldier killed in World War II when Pink was a child. In school, Pink is derided by teachers while his fellow students are trundled down a conveyor belt and fed into a sausage grinder.

The wall as metaphor
The overriding metaphor, of course, is that of the wall; and as a symbol it is used in more ways than one. First, it represents the walls we often build around ourselves to keep people away, to avoid any authentic connection with others. Second, it is a symbol of repression, as we are, each of us, just another anonymous brick in the wall of humanity. The screaming mouth erupting from the wall is a clever touch, calling to mind Munch's seminal portrait of modern angst.

Misogyny or character flaw?
One concern I did have while watching the film was over its portrayal of women. In several of the animated sequences there are rapacious vaginas devouring any semblance of maleness. In some of the live-action scenes the abusive behavior of Pink's teacher is blamed on the way his wife treats him at home. And while Pink's wife initially appears to be understanding and supportive, during one animated sequence her silhouette transforms into a praying mantis bent on gobbling up poor Pink. True, by this point in the movie she has left him for another man, but that is only after Pink has rejected her more than once. I could never be certain, contemplating all this imagery, if it was supposed to represent Pink's misguided point of view or if it was a misstep on the part of the filmmakers.

Not your average sing-along
One undeniable fact is the power of Pink Floyd's music. As the film marches toward its incendiary--and ironic--conclusion it becomes a cautionary tale against the thoughtless acceptance of anything that might drive the masses into a frenzy, including, the filmmakers appear to be suggesting, the music in this movie.

It's happening at the cemetery
Lola's Outdoor Retro Cinema and Long Beach Cinematheque have teamed up to present a series of summer screenings at the Sunnyside Cemetery, on Willow St.

This Friday, June 27, catch Pink Floyd The Wall. There will also be a pre-film performance by the Long Beach band, MOVE, of "a masterful rendition of Pink Floyd's 1973 rock opus, 'Dark Side of the Moon.'" Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

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To read more reviews and articles by Michael Ballard, CLICK HERE.

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