A Sweet Cherry Moon
Under the Cherry Moon
Directed by Prince
At Harvard Square
There are some movies you know are going to get panned.
Movie critics had their sights set on Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple long before it was released. They sharpened their knives for Sting's Bring On the Night before it was even filmed. The critical eye can often be green with envy.
After they grudgingly accepted Prince's Purple Rain, movie critics went into Under the Cherry Moon with their reviews already written. They only attended the film to see whether the movie was bad enough for the obituary section.
Critics--what do they know? Under the Cherry Moon is a great movie and perhaps the best romantic comedy of the summer.
A word of caution. Prince wrote the soundtrack for this movie. Prince stars in this movie. Prince directed this movie. If you don't like Prince, don't see this movie.
Prince is all over this film, running around in clothes that are somewhere between 13th century Paris fashion and New York new wave chic. Prince is lewd, rude and constantly coy with the audience and the camera.
For people that like Prince, Under the Cherry Moon is the best thing, well, since Prince's latest album.
Under the Cherry Moon is about two American gigolos (Prince and Jerome Benton) who work in a cafe on the French Rivera and supplement their salaries by romancing the rich and lonely and their pocketbooks.
Prince crashes a socialite party and meets a rich, young heiress (Kristin Scott-Thomas) whom he seduces and falls in love with. However, the heiress' father (Steven Berkoff) is determined to make sure their romance never achieves, shall we say, fruition.
Jerome Benton, Prince's comic servant in Purple Rain, and newcomer Scott-Thomas deliver likeable performances. Berkoff is suitably hateful and hateable as the possessive billionaire father.
The movie is shot in black and white. That's a strange choice for a comedy, because black and white films seem drier and duller than technicolor. It's an even stranger choice for a first time director like Prince. In black and white there's nowhere to hide--you have to get the staging just right, the shadows to fall just so. Since there's less to confuse the eye and the mind, the viewer can really concentrate on the aesthetic qualities of the movie.
Prince handles it well. Black and white is perfect for his long overexposed pans of hazy French villages, and close ups of pained reactions when the movie turns tragic.
The staging of the film is also effective. In a clever scene that opens the movie, Prince plays at a dim cafe piano, seducing patrons with his eyes and music as Benton passes him notes urging him on. In another scene, Prince sits in the back of a car, silent and out of focus, waiting for Scott-Thomas to admit she loves him.
Prince skillfully manages to capture and balance the farcical humor that opens the movie with the romantic tragedy that ends it. That's not bad for a first timer.
Prince is used to doing it all. At just 19 Prince arranged, produced, and composed his own album. He also sang vocals and played all the instruments except for a few backup ones.
For someone that knows music so well, it's surprising that Prince's biggest mistake as a director lies with the soundtrack. There's not enough of it. The popular songs off the soundtrack album, like `Kiss' and `New Position' are limited to the background and often stripped of lyrics. There is a surreal performance of `Mountains' as the credits roll, but it's too late. We're already angry because there wasn't enough concert footage.
Because the acting and the directing are suprisingly good, Under the Cherry Moon manages to get away with not featuring Prince's music. It's still a fun, thoughtful film and a must-see for Prince enthusiasts. But don't take a critic's word for it. See Under the Cherry Moon for yourself.