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I was very excited when I learnt that not only had Tim Pope filmed The Cure's anniversary show in Hyde Park last year but also that it was going to be shown in cinemas worldwide. But first, let me rewind a bit.
I first discovered The Cure in 1986 at the tender age of 11. My brother's friend was singing some song lyrics which really intrigued me. When I enquired further she said the song was Killing An Arab and that her brother had bought the new Cure singles album 'Standing on a Beach'. My interest was sparked enough for me to go out and buy said album and dip my toe into the world of alternative music.
The album was a perfect introduction with every track being perfectly conceived but with the band audibly evolving and mutating over time with each new incarnation of the group.
What also impressed me was that this was a band who seemed to love their back catalogue and wanting to have it fully available in the public domain for fans to enjoy. Hence, in addition to the LP version of the album which contained all of the singles, the band also released a cassette edition that had the band's B-sides on it's second side, a video compilation that contained all of the videos, videos that were made for songs that weren't released as singles and home video interludes in-between each video. The CD version of the album had an extended tracklisting that mirrored the video compliations songlist.
The video compilation Staring At The Sun- The Images was a revelation. The early videos depicted the band as either a band of angry young men stuck in a studio with some very dated looking vision mixing or as long coat wearing gloom merchants with an innovative sound and equally innovative hair.
But then the band allowed possibly the most insane, demented and brilliant pop video director of that era to visualise their amazing 1982 disco (yes, disco!) single Let's Go To Bed. Just as this song broke the mould when it came to The Cure as a musical entity (it was even recorded the same year as the band's Pornography album which is one of the most savagely downbeat albums ever made), Pope broke the mould when it came to The Cure's videos and in fact, anyone's videos. He depicted the band as just as colourful, multi-faceted and hallucinatory as their music and it worked beautifully. They even started to smile in front of the camera as if they were genuinely enjoying themselves.
The year after the release of Standing on a Beach the concert film 'The Cure In Orange' which was also directed by Pope was released. Tim was now established as the only video director who the band would work with and so it was only natural that he would direct the band's first live film.
Filmed at The Theatre Antique d'Orange in France the band used the ancient environs as an amazing backdrop for an hour and a half trip through their amazing back-catalogue.
I was gutted at the time that I didn't get to see the film on the big screen as it was only shown at cinemas in selected big cities in the UK before a video release.
And now here we are in 2019 and I'm getting to see the band on the big screen and with a different line-up. The band's 40th anniversary gig held at Hyde Park in London in July 2018 was filmed (thankfully by Tim Pope) in 4K with the sound being mixed at Abbey Road by Robert Smith himself.
Was it as good as I hope it would be? In a word- yes. In fact, it was much better than I hoped it would be and I thought it would be pretty amazing before I actually saw it.
The backdrop this time is the London skyline as we see the time span that the band play change from early evening to dusk and then to nighttime. Who knew that nature would bring such a brilliant and dramatic tone to events but it does and it works wonderfully.
Whilst the band perform some of their best known songs (Friday I'm in Love, Lovesong, In Between Days) this isn't a Greatest Hits set. There are rare airings of Grinding Halt, Jumping Someone Else's Train and The Caterpillar- songs that fans of the band will know but may be unheard by more casual listeners.
The film also does the impossible. I kind of switched off from The Cure on the release of the album Disintegration as at the time I found it to be overlong, a bit 'middle-aged' (oh, the irony) and somewhat flabby. This film has made me buy said album again and also play other tracks that I didn't particularly care for on their release such as High, Friday I'm in Love and Never Enough as they were played so brilliantly by the band during the gig. This last track especially shows the brilliance of the group as a touring ensemble. On it's release I dismissed the one-off single as The Cure desperately trying to 'go baggy' and fit in with the whole vile Madchester scene that was so popular with NME and Melody Maker journo wankers. However, within the film the song now truly swaggers with it's stop/start brilliance and audience participation. Madchester is now (thankfully) a distant memory and so it's associations don't marr the track's brilliance anymore.
History judges everything and the passage of time has judged these songs very well indeed as it has the whole of The Cure's back catalogue. The fact that they have evolved in great ways when played live by such a great touring unit also helps immeasurably. And the band are on such top form that they just keep peaking at various points throughout the set. This ensures that the film and the band never drags. The only criticism that has been levelled against the band recently by certain silly music journalists has been that their concerts are too long. This is twaddle. The band are very evidently in love with performing their music and this comes across in spades throughout the whole of the film. If only more bands were like The Cure.
Tim Pope's direction also brings several different layers to this concert film. He knows when to be restrained and when to work his visual magic. Hence we get songs like Plainsong that need no visual trickery at all. But then the film twists, turns and gets significantly more freaky visually with every song. Pope employs the kind of direction and effects that have never been seen in a concert film before this. I remember at one point during the film watching the band seemingly shifting in size and form whilst beams of colour radiate from them and the stage. I thought to myself that it felt like I had just dropped really good acid whilst actually being at the event. Thats quite a feat for a concert film.
Pope also references the past (check out The Walk and the way the editing is a nod and wink to the editing of the original video).
With Pope's relationship with the band spanning several decades the audience gets to peek into aspects of this that would otherwise never be shared and remain private. Hence, there are several moments of humour and insightful behaviour that are captured on film. One of these is the brilliant first moment we see Smith- he sarcastically waves at the camera and instantly breaks the fourth wall...in fact Pope documents many moments that show Robert not to be the morose singer that lazy journalists would have you believe he is but more the master of deadpan humour, an example of which was also seen recently when the clip of him being inducted into The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame went viral.
There seems to be a whole narrative of band relations and genuine chemistry throughout the course of the film which is fascinating to watch and partly explains why the band have lasted so long and why this line-up is such a brilliant live entity.
If there is one abiding emotion I got from this film it's just utter joy- at seeing a beautifully crafted film of such a brilliant band who are still at the top of their game. And I kept finding myself smiling at finally getting to see the legend that is Robert Smith on the big screen. The Cure In Orange now needs to find a Blu Ray release with it playing cinemas across the country to support it's release.
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