[box cover]

Under the Cherry Moon

After the runaway success of 1984's Purple Rain, some sort of follow-up was all but inevitable. And for Prince, one of the few pop artists of the 1980s who didn't suck, this success allowed him to become an auteur: As the credits proclaim, Under the Cherry Moon (1986) is "A Film by Prince." But whatever musical prowess the man has, his sensibilities behind the camera (on both this title and 1990's Graffiti Bridge) would never lead to him being studied alongside Howard Hawks or John Ford. The story follows musician/gigolo Christopher Tracy (Prince) as he leads his charmed life on the French Riviera by seducing women and taking their money. He's accompanied by his almost-pimp Tricky (Jerome Benton), who usually facilitates his boss's rendezvous, and also clings to him in a way that makes the two come across as a couple of sorts — at one point Prince takes a bath as Benton looks over him and occasionally drops rose petals in the tub… (no comment). Trouble erupts for both when Tracy sets his sights on heiress Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas, in her auspicious film debut), whose father (Steven Berkoff) objects to their dating, especially since Tracy's last conquest was Mrs. Wellington (Francesca Annis), with whom Mr. Sharon has been having an affair. Both Tricky and Tracy fancy Mary, so not only does Tracy have Mr. Sharon's men watching him, but he's also on the outs with his partner. But for this gigolo, he feels his love for Mary may be the Thing Called Love. Shot in black-and-white by ace cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas), Under the Cherry Moon is a pretty enough movie, and —when they are played for more than a snippet — the Prince numbers are pretty good (the standouts are "Kiss" and "Anotherloverholenyohead"). Unfortunately, Prince was never a great actor, and left to his own devices the movie wouldn't be more than something of a camp classic — though most camp classics are more entertaining than this. Prince generally looks more feminine than his leading ladies, while wearing outfits that wouldn't be inappropriate were said women to wear them — something all the more confusing because of his intimate relationship with Benton, and the fact that the love of his life is named Mary (a popular slang for gay men). Prince always has had a weird bisexual appeal, but that doesn't help his leading-man status here, and with his eye shadow and sparkling close-ups he resembles the old Hollywood glamour of starlets like Greta Garbo. As a misguided act of narcissism, it's amusing, but the movie mostly belongs in the sub-genre of "Films starring musicians that amusingly suck" (which includes such winners as Glitter and Mahogany). Warner presents Under the Cherry Moon in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio (even though the film isn't good, not remastering the DVD in DD 5.1 seems like a missed opportunity). Extras include the trailer and music videos for "Anotherloverholenyohead" "Girls & Boys," "Kiss," and "Mountains." Keep-case.

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