J. Hoberman on Why You Should Give Prince’s ‘Under the Cherry Moon’ Another Chance


Purple Rain may be Prince’s most popular contribution to cinema, but what about Under the Cherry Moon? Prince’s directorial debut hit theaters in 1986 to less-than-favorable reviews. The movie flopped (hell, it tied with Howard the Duck for Worst Picture at the Golden Raspberry Awards that year), but former Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman offered a rousing review, laying out just why Under the Cherry Moon is worth your time.

In fact, you’ll be able to catch it on the silver screen in 35mm at IFC Center at midnight on May 6 and 7. At the very least, the film should inspire you to go to your local “wrecka stow” and pick up the phenomenal soundtrack, Parade, which includes “Kiss.”

Hoberman got Under the Cherry Moon at a time when most critics and audiences shrugged it off as self-indulgent. Hoberman recognized that Prince (while “disarmingly dopey”) was in his element performing “his own particular gender blur in eschewing the power associated with masculinity for feminine vanity and seductiveness.” It wasn’t the first time, nor was it the last, that Prince would deftly skate around prescribed gender norms.

Here’s the introduction to Hoberman’s July 15, 1986, review:

There hasn’t been a Hollywood comedy with an attitude like Under the Cherry Moon‘s since I’m No Angel, and the bluenoses are already rising to the bait. The flaming creature who calls himself Prince may be the wittiest heterosexual clown since Mae West; black as well as campy, he’s even more threatening.

Where Purple Rain was angst-ridden psychodrama, Under the Cherry Moon is revisionist Astaire-Rogers; it has the engraved titles and, thanks to cameraman Michael Ballhaus, the elegant black and white cinematography of a Woody Allen film. Prince and his crony Jerome Benton — Morris Day’s sidekick in Purple Rain — play Christopher and Tricky, a pair of hustlers (from Miami, no less) living it up on the French Riviera, which Ballhaus succeeds in rendering as something like the world’s largest outdoor disco.

Read the Voice‘s Under the Cherry Moon review in full below.