A single screening in only 2,700 cinemas worldwide on September 29. That is how Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has decided to release Roger Waters The Wall, co-directed with cinematic newcomer Sean Evans.
It could be just another standard “Live Tour” film; the music from the concert alone has enough about it to merit a feature-length effort but, hey, this is legendary Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and he didn’t want to close the Tour with a plain old DVD for those fans who missed the live show.
Irish actor Liam Neeson explains in an introduction to the feature that the first time he saw The Wall live in London it was a bit like psychotherapy. Roger Waters takes this notion literally, and then beyond.
So, yes, it’s the classic Tour Film. And Sean Evans is brilliant at telling the story behind the concert, capturing the spectacular live production at Paris’ Stade de France, the last stage of a tour that has become the most profitable in history for a solo artist (441 million euros).
But also it’s a road movie, a tale of a aging man who travels from England to Italy to see the memorial where his father, killed in combat in WWII, is remembered.
The result is a docufiction that can be confusing at times; we see Waters appearing to cry, or drunk at a bar, then with his three sons, then with his best friend. “I had an absolute need to go and visit my grandfather’s grave, because I’d never been,” Waters told The New York Times. “And I knew I wanted my three children to be with me; I wanted them standing by that grave with me. And I knew I had to go and visit the memorial to my father, which was in Monte Cassino, because I’d never been to that garden, either. Here I was, 70 years old, and I had never done it, so I had to do it. And I thought, this is what the movie’s about, so we will film it.”
So Roger Waters The Wall is closing the circle of The Wall: in the 1979 album his father and war were two pillars of the story about walls built by fear.
He also wants to deliver a political message. “One has seen our glorious leaders screw up the way this small, weak planet is organized in ways that have caused enormous distress to many—if not most—of our brothers and sisters around the world. It can be seen as a metaphor for broader issues about different walls—not the personal walls I might have built around myself, but the walls we build around nations and ideologies and religions. I’m talking about killing people.” Newsweek quotes him saying, during New York’s première.
Filmed in 4K and with Waters’ usual care for sound quality (it’s mixed in Dolby Atmos), the film of the concert is almost as powerful as being there live (I was there at Paris Bercy’s 2011 show) and, in the bonus sections, contains details that you simply cannot see inside a stadium.
As a ‘bonus to the bonus’ the film includes a Q&A session together with fomer Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. They don’t reply to many of the questions but the result is hilarious.
And no, Pink Floyd won’t be making a comeback, they say. About his differences with David Gilmour Waters says they’ve just “distanced”.
They’re working on the DVD, which is great news. But it definitely won’t be the same. You wonder why they decided to screen it just once, depriving hundreds of thousands of fans the experience of the big screen and surround-sound cinema speakers.
The producers haven’t even gone to the trouble of hitting the public with the kind of promotional campaign we’ve become accustomed to.
I am not a conventional fan (I don’t even possess any Pink Floyd T-Shirts) but I love the 1979 album as well as Alan Parker’s 1982 movie, and most of Pink Floyd’s other albums. I am quite Internet-connected, yet I hadn’t heard about the “single screening” operation until a few hours before it was premiered here in France.
Obviously the tickets were gone by then but I wasn’t giving up so easily. So I went to the theatre in hope of a miracle. In the queue, made up mostly of 40-somethings and younger hipsters, there were many other fans asking for tickets but both cinema rooms were packed. There was just one other theatre in Paris showing the film, on the other side of the city and with no tickets available. But the miracle happened. Someone had a ticket for a friend who didn’t show up and I got there before the four or five other desperate-looking fans waiting in hope outside.
So I was one of the lucky few. But I find it a shame for the unlucky many, as there’s plenty in Roger Waters The Wall for both hardcore Pink Floyd fans and the softer-core ones like myself.
Contacted by euronews, Gabriel Swartland, Head of Marketing at distribution company Picturehouses is reassuring. The film will be featured again in countries where yesterday’s operation was specially successful. There are no international figures yet but 400,000 people attended yesterday in the UK. He says they did promote the screening properly, so it must be I’m not enough of a fan.