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Saturday, November 3, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Don't Bother Crossing This `Graffiti Bridge'

X ``Graffiti Bridge,'' with Prince, Morris Day, Ingrid Chavez. Written and directed by Prince. City Centre, Aurora Village, Lewis & Clark, Alderwood, Gateway, Kirkland Parkplace. ``PG-13'' - Parental guidance advised, due to strong language, skimpy lingerie.

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Prince preens more than prances in his latest extended video concept - excuse me, movie.

Welcome to a huge studio set. On this set are a bunch of nightclubs. Most of them are owned by Morris Day (playing himself), but one of them is co-owned by The Kid (Prince) and Day.

Day wants to buy The Kid out, but The Kid won't go for it. Without a club, where could he play his music? Day's nasty remarks and brutal antics (he urinates on Prince's palm tree, then sets fire to it) don't make any difference. The Kid hangs on.

Encouraging him is Aura (newcomer Ingrid Chavez). She's a bit of a beatnik who writes poems and sits on a bridge, when she isn't materializing and dematerializing without rhyme or reason in various nightclubs.

Aura whispers her poetry in voice-over: ``Abandoned on the street at the tender age of seven

/How could I ever know the real meaning of heaven?''

She also gets to say, ``It's just around the corner'' again and again. Sometimes the phrase is echoed. Sometimes it's not.

Ostensibly, ``Graffiti Bridge'' is about a battle between the ``spiritual'' music of The Kid (Prince) and the money-grubbing music of Morris Day. Because Prince wrote all the songs anyway, it's hard to see what all the fuss is about.

Prince's onstage performances are less fun than they've ever been. He's smitten with the idea of himself as a holier-than-thou rock icon. Day recycles his two jokes from ``Purple Rain'' - combing his hair and looking in the mirror - while ogling every chick in sight. This is stale stuff.

The film's subtext is far more interesting. For those trying to pass the time while watching the movie, it's fun to theorize about this actor-director's deep sexual confusion. While Prince-the-cinema-auteur is obsessed with fitting strapping Amazonian lasses into black leather bikinis, Prince-the-screen-persona is equally adamant about bringing back coy, off-the-shoulder, form-fitting Valley Girl fashions in the '90s - for boys, that is.

He also seems to have joined Michael Jackson in a Diana Ross lookalike contest - which he's winning because he's got the right hairdo (never mind the three days' growth of beard).

Androgyny is all very well - but what does it mean when it's accompanied by homophobia and misogyny? Prince wouldn't dream of slithering around anything that wasn't female, and when Morris Day and sidekick Jerome Benton accidentally kiss, they gag and have spasms. The only woman who isn't dolled up in go-go gear gets hit by a truck. Pretty liberating.

Technically, the film is a compendium of stale MTV gimmicks - dry ice, stylized sets. It's a neo-Expressionist tempest in a teapot. Sure there's dancing, but Janet Jackson does it better. Sure there's singing, but it's so obviously lip-synched that it comes across as feverishly inert. Even cameo appearances by gospel singer Mavis Staples and funk-surrealist George Clinton fail to add any energy.

``Graffiti Bridge'' 's biggest flaw, however, is that it's about such a tiny, tiny world. This guy needs to get out of the house more! The film is a trite miscellany of ``one-inch thoughts'' (to borrow a phrase from David Bowie).

Sorry, but this viewer just couldn't fit into them.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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