The Wall," makes a mind-boggling spectacle of the last self-pitying recollections and deranged fantasies of a rock star going out of his mind.
Holed up in a hotel room, the unappealing protagonist, called Pink Floyd and portrayed by a British rocker named Bob Geldof (not, as one might suppose, a member of the band Pink Floyd, but a recruit from another group, winsomely named The Boomtown Rats), stares at TV transmissions of Tom & Jerry cartoons and the stalwart old war melodrama "The Dam Busters." These transmissions may or may not be regarded as triggering mechanisms for the sequences that represent Pink's schizoid, stream-of-consciousness sleepwalk from infancy to insanity through a cruel, cruel world.
In fact, one of the songs faithfully transposed from the original source material, a Pink Floyd album that hit the jackpot in 1979 and then enjoyed added success when adapted to the rock concert stage, finds the pitiful hero crooning out loud "Goodbye cruel world, I'm leaving you today." Given the abstract chronicle of wretchedness that director Alan Parker has been strewing across the screen, occasionally augmented by animated anxiety attacks from the noted cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, this farewell remark seems perfectly understandable. Even welcome.
Pulling the old chain appears to be the only alternative left to a poor bleeder like Pink. What throws you is the line that follows: "Nothing you can say to make me change my mind." Talk about presumptuous! Far from evoking a sense of loss, the thought of a world without Pink is relatively rosy.
I'm not sure if Parker has contrived this fresh wretched excess (earlier examples -- "Bugsy Malone," "Midnight Express" and "Fame") out of a faithful or somehow distorted interpretive vision. Judging from the mawkishness of the premise and the Painted Word banality of the lyrics heard on the soundtrack, I'm inclined to believe that he supplied the material with the sort of pictorial gloss it begs for, way down shallow.
The basic emotional miscalculation in the movie is summed up in "Nothing you can say to make me change my mind." Parker doesn't come within a light year of justifying pathos where Pink is concerned. If anything, the character seems to express all the bleary, self-pitying cliches that ought to be discarded as ragged sentimental baggage from the '60s. Parker's fatal misjudgment is failing to recognize that a solemnly expressionistic movie presentation of themes from "The Wall" tends to magnify its inherent lack of dramatic substance.
At any rate, as the film unfolds, it becomes apparent that Pink's chronicle suffers more from triteness than incoherence, although each sequence and the finished product go on to sputter out incoherently as well. The hero is supposed to be haunted by the loss of his dad, killed on the beach at Anzio, and then coerced in the general direction of gibbering idiocy by a smothering mum, an unfaithful bride, a materialistic culture and a corrupted career. None of these would-be oppressive, maddening influences is illustrated adequately, to put it mildly, not even in fleeting symbolic terms.
There's no compelling reason to accept the pretense that life has ganged up on Pink in a particularly dreadful way, or the pretense that this young slug is somehow representative of a whole generation's anxieties. If you're not prepared to accept the humorless neurotic conceits that control the presentation, Pink emerges as a vaguely ridiculous case of terminal alienation -- such a born loser is the boyish Pink that even his pet rat dies after a one-day relationship.
"Do you think they'll drop the Bomb?" asks a loaded musical question at one irresistibly funny point. Obviously, they've already dropped it, and it's called "The Wall."