Paisley Park is a glorious place to see a Prince movie.
Last night, Prince’s former home kicked off the first of a series of Saturday night movie screenings. Along with Friday night dance parties and Sunday morning brunch, they’re all part of the revitalized Paisley Park After Dark (tickets available here).
I got to Paisley Park just after 7 p.m. last night, excited to see Sign O’ The Times, an appropriate pick for first movie. As I learned while writing the event preview, Prince had planned to use footage from his Europe tour for the film. However, audio issues forced him to reshoot most of the film inside none other than Paisley Park’s soundstage.
Each ticket included a pre-movie tour of Paisley Park, and mine rarely digressed from the one I took in November. I did love the opportunity to stand in the Sign O’ The Times room just 90 minutes before watching the movie; Prince’s acoustic guitar from “Forever In My Life” joined an orange drum set, an orange suit, the “U Got The Look” white oversized coat, and the safety-pinned jean jacket from “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.” A clip from Jon Pareles in The New York Times read, “Only Prince could land ‘Sign o’ the Times,’ a song about AIDS, drugs, sudden death and nuclear war, in the Top 10.”
Our purple-tunicked guide took us through the Atrium to Studio A, the Purple Rain room, and beyond. We skipped the soundstage, since the staff needed time to prepare the area, heading straight to the NPG Music Club to wait for doors. A heart-shaped mirror lay on the floor of the small stage and teased the movie to come.
Just before 9 p.m., my tour group and many more filed into the soundstage. Eyes flew to the two cars — a purple 1999 Plymouth Prowler and a 2006 Bentley Continental GT — parked in front of the screen. Eight rows of about twelve white folding chairs, divided by an aisle, had been set up facing the cars. The Paisley Park Kitchen sold popcorn and other concessions, but I’d already purchased a tropical smoothie: as the menu promised, “[Prince] loved watching movies while sipping on one.”
Sign O’ The Times accompanies Prince’s ’87 album of the same name, and the music is superb. I wasn’t sure whether to expect a story to go along with the concert footage, since it’s usually billed as a concert film. As it turns out, a few of Prince’s band members (including Cat, the continually hit-on dancer) do get lines, but the scenes are more vignettes than full-fledged narrative.
Prince played his album, plus “Little Red Corvette” and a band-spotlighting cover of “Now’s The Time” by Charlie Parker. The audience clapped as favorites “Housequake” and “Hot Thing” began. Aside from Prince himself, Sheila E. got the loudest applause of anyone. And the whole band sounded on their game, staying sharp and tight under Prince’s direction.
I’m excited to see what other films Paisley Park has up its sleeve. There’s Purple Rain, of course, as well as Under The Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge — but the staff could theoretically screen Prince’s vaulted footage. If and when that happens, I’ll be right back in the soundstage.