Roger Waters The Wall full movie review - When the Tigers Broke Free.
It's hard not to think about certain things when watching this live concert cum documentary that Roger Waters (with assist by Sean Evans) has put together.
One of those is the original 1982 movie of the Wall - back when Pink Floyd did it, which you will find scant mention of here - which had director Alan Parker basically bringing the album to life in a theatrical medium, along with cartoons by Gerald Scarfe. It was the kind of presentation that was iconic for a 15 year old as I was when I first saw it (the perfect age to see it, I think, even as an R-rate movie), and it struck a chord as a 'depressing' rock opera of sorts, a tale that goes into the sad, ugly sides of fame and dealing with loss; not really being able to deal with it, mistreating/detaching from women or romantic interests, and holding up in a (self made) prison of neuroses and pain. It's in other words the ultimate emo classic rock classic of its time.
But now Waters is not the same man he was when he wrote it 36 years ago and went on your with it with Floyd back in 1980/81; he's an old man with kids and grandkids, and this movie is really about reflecting back again. And again, and again at the loss of something very heavy, this being Eric Fletcher Waters in 1944 in Anzio, and if there's any through-line with the documentary scenes it's that Waters is going to the same site where his dad died. Will he get catharsis? Are even told as much? Who knows.
In a strange way, between this rock show and Waters in real life as we see him in this movie, he's like the rock star equivalent of a superhero; not on the side of doing things heroic, rather I mean the origin story, as we know many/most comic book heroes have in their bones loss. If the loss of Bruce Wayne's parents shaped him to become Batman, then one wonders watching this if Waters' dad made him make The Wall; certainly it wouldn't have the same sort of emotional punch without the loss. That said, it's pushed so much in this story that there's not much room for anything else; there are a couple of anecdotes told between Waters and an old childhood friend, plus his own kids who join him to see his grandfather's grave (which, in a coincidence I didn't know, died as well in WW1 when EF Waters was just two), but aside from that it's all about the loss to the point where it's constricting.
But hey, this IS also about the performance of The Wall concert itself, right? That itself is one of the marvels of rock performances, and has been for so long, though even this is updated from what it used to be - when Pink Floyd first performed the concerts, the brick-by-brick set up of a wall being built in the first half, then finished by the end of 'Goodbye Cruel World', and the rest of the show performed with a wall put up between band and audience (a metaphor for the ages), it was innovative and stark and original. Here it's used again, though this time in 2015 this along with the creator has changed, and audiences seeing it in person get a giant screen projected on the Wall.
I wonder if this has the same effect as it did back in the early 80's, when such technology didn't exist, but it does provide us with a lot of images that compliment and enhance what we're hearing and seeing on stage - pictures of veterans and other civilians that have died in war in the early part of the concert (during "Thin Ice") and, to a not as effective sensation, girls acting all catty and 'sensual' during "Young Lust". What one wants to see is the band perform really, and they all do a smashing good job (GE Smith one of them); one unintentionally ironic part is that The Wall is meant as the metaphor in part for what Waters felt in the late 70's, being disconnected from the very audience he was playing for, and now the filmmakers have lots and lots of shots of the audience, enraptured and loving what they're seeing on stage.
Of course there are only so many ways to shoot a live concert, and if it was focused just on the stage Waters and Evans wouldn't get enough coverage. But it is funny (not in a 'ha-ha' way, just amusing) that the show is both shown as being about in large part a rock start going full blown fascist dictator and stone-cold depressive ("One of My Turns") to an audience that is totally connected, albeit many of them with their phones out, with that being their own wall, so to speak, if one reads into it that way. But ultimately the performance by Waters and his band is so strong and the presentation so lively and inventive in its roots, from the inflatable figures on stage of the teacher and the black pig over the audience, to the Scarfe animations occasionally thrown on the video on the wall, that I couldn't help but be entertained on that audio-visual level alone.
So to sum it all up: the documentary segments are well-shot and interesting on their own, and they'd make for a helluva strong short documentary on tracking the kind of loss that you can never fully get over, but it breaks up the flow of what is the MAIN story, the Wall story itself. It's maybe a more mature and thoughtful film than Parker/Scarfe/Waters' production in 82, but as far as just pure rock and roll experimentation brilliance it doesn't compare. One last nice touch: Waters playing 'When the Tigers Broke Free' on trumpet for his dad.