FAME was Parkerís follow-up to MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, which- despite the controversy associated with the film due to its fairly racist depiction of Turkey, is still an excellent film and well worth checking out if you havenít seen it. Now, considering how harsh, and gritty MIDNIGHT EXPRESS was, you wouldnít think Parker would have been the obvious choice to make a film about a high school for the performing arts. The fact that he previously helmed BUGSY MALONE might have helped get him the gig, but FAME probably has a lot more in common with MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, than that other film.
You see, while the new FAME is a decidedly PG-13 affair, the original film was a fairly gritty R-rated outing, that easily a much more realistic look at high school than the watered down teen flicks we have to suffer through nowadays. In the original film, the kids swear, have lots of sex, do drugs, have abortions- you know, all the things we pretend high school donít actually do, but do anyways.
While itís somewhat dated in terms of the fashions and music, FAME actually holds up quite well. This is mostly due to Parkerís brilliant direction, coupled with a smart script, and excellent performances from the young cast, many of whom moved over to the TV show a few years later. Over the 130-minute runtime, you really get to know each of the kids (my favorite storyline involving the Freddie Prinze- idolizing Ralph Garcie), and one of the bittersweet things about this film, is that a lot of the kids never really moved beyond the FAME franchise. Probably the only actor from the film that works steadily is Paul McCrane, who plays the sensitive, proudly gay Montgomery (which was a seriously ballsy storyline for a film made almost thirty years ago), who went on to play the psychotic Leon in ROBOCOP, and also popped up on ER, and 24 in later years.
After FAME, Alan Parker went onto have an incredibly varied body of work. His next film would be the stoner classic, PINK FLOYD: THE WALL, followed by the harrowing divorce melodrama, SHOOT THE MOON. After that, he did the sensitive Vietnam drama BIRDY (which features an incredible musical score by Peter Gabriel), followed by two back-to-back classics, ANGEL HEART & MISSISSIPPI BURNING. In the nineties, he hit a bit of a rough patch, and his most recent film, THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE, was universally reviled, and he hasnít done anything since. Hopefully, Parker will bounce back at some point, as the guyís got some serious skill as a director, and we desperately need more directors of his ilk making films in a marketplace increasingly cluttered by junk, like the new FAME.
We also get a vintage featurette , and a new (well, for 2003 anyway) look at the NY school depicted in the film. Oddly, the actor who played the drama teacher in the film, in now actually the schoolís drama teacher. Coincidence? I think not!