British filmmaker Alan Parker, who left us on July 31st, 2020, was not a prolific filmmaker. He made just shy of twenty movies but what a heavy footprint these movies left on me. Films like “Angel Heart,” starring Mickey Rourke, and Robert De Niro as the devil, “Mississippi Burning” or that terrific film “The Commitments,” which came out in 1991, they all made their mark on me, each one for a different reason.
It struck me, as I look over Mr. Parker’s filmography, what dense psychological territory Parker led the viewer on. I was sixteen when “Angel Heart” came out and I didn’t understand a lot of it. But I still remember not just many of the scenes from “Angel Heart” but also Rourke’s briny face and the fantastically-stylish look of the film.
Fast-forward to the early nineties and “The Commitments.” What a joyful ride that was, from the surprised astonishment that someone like Deko (Andrew Strong), a white Irish man, could sing with the timbre and the spiritual strength of a black man, to the pleasures of watching a newly-formed band, The Commitments, play in venues, with the various other stories of mishaps, rivalry and ambitions thrown in.
As filmmaker and storyteller Parker left no stones unturned. Watching his movies sometimes felt like a descent into hell, or a trip through a valley of the shadows where you’re made to feel like you’ve touched rock-bottom and redemption is not guaranteed. Hang on to your seat, you don’t come back the same from watching an Alan Parker movie.
His movies had bite, his characters, not always big-named, burned through the screen, they were grandiose and pitiable all at once.
Parker was a rigorous filmmaker whose professionalism shone through, both in the cerebral tenor of his movies and the enigmatic charm of the people in them. How fortunate I am to have experienced his movies, and how I look forward, now, to having a new go at them.
Parker died in London on July 31st, 2020 at age 76, following a long illness.