Friday, 22 April 2016

Batman (1989 version) (4 Stars)

I just realised that I've reviewed this film three times already, and each review was only a few sentences, saying almost nothing. Maybe it's a film that I don't have much to say about. I like it, obviously, or I wouldn't be watching it today for the fourth time in six years. I don't know exactly how often I watched it before I started writing my blog in 2010. Maybe another four times.

This film is very good in itself, even though it stands in the shadow of the sequel, "Batman Returns". Once more I shan't say much about the film, because I watched it today in memory of Prince, who died yesterday at the age of 57. Prince's music makes this film special. It dominates two of the scenes with the Joker, the songs "Party Man" and "Trust" blasting out in the foreground. It was an inspiration of genius that Tim Burton picked Prince to compose music for the film. Prince's chaotic music style perfectly underlines the Joker's madness. Prince released a CD called "Batman" which is usually considered to be a film soundtrack CD, but it actually includes several songs not used in the film. It's a shame that these songs weren't used as well.

I discovered Prince's music quite late. In the 1980's I rarely listened to the radio, and television music channels were in their early days. Actually, I listen to the radio even less now, and I almost never watch television music channels. The first Prince song I heard was "Kiss". I was on a business trip to the Robert Bosch factory in Homburg, Germany. There were three English contract workers staying in the same hotel as me. Usually we sat and had a drink in the hotel bar, but one evening we went to a discotheque in the town centre. "Kiss" was played several times during the evening. I remember asking the English guys what the song was.

That must have been in the middle of 1986. 1986 was also the year in which I bought my first CD player. I bought "Parade", the 1986 album that included "Kiss", as one of my first CD's. After that I bought the rest of Prince's albums on CD, although I soon decided that I didn't like his first two albums, "For You" (1978) and "Prince" (1979). These two albums were typical soul music, which I've never liked. It wasn't until "Dirty Mind" (1980) that he started to develop the eccentric musical style that he became known for. If anything, "Dirty Mind" and "Controversy" (1981) were transitional albums in which his style was still evolving. In 1982 he released "1999", which I consider to be his best album, although his best selling album was "Purple Rain" (1984).

I carried on buying his albums as they were released, but "Batman" (1989) was the last album of his that I really enjoyed. His later albums were okay, but I realised that I wasn't listening to them. I'm sure my readers have similar experiences with their favourite musicians. You buy all of their albums, but when you have a dozen albums on your shelf you notice that you don't listen to them all, just your favourites.

I know very little about Prince himself. He kept his personal life secret. He claimed to be a Christian, but he was also sexually promiscuous. Some people mocked him because of his height -- he was only 5'2" tall -- but they had to respect him for his musical skills. On stage he played guitar, but he was a multi-instrumentalist who played most of the instruments on his albums. He lived for music. In the late 1980's stories emerged that he was recording one or two songs a day and storing them in a vault to be released posthumously. This is an exciting prospect, the promise of new music after his death, but people who have seen his vault are less optimistic. They say that the recordings made in his most prolific era weren't stored digitally, they were on tapes, and there's a danger that they will have deteriorated over the last 30 years. Nevertheless, it will be good to hear what's been hidden all this time.

June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016

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