I first caught a glimpse of a dewigged Robert Smith on a spotty VHS copy of “The Cure: In Orange,” a videotape a friend popped into his VCR and told me, then in 1998 when I first started playing the bass guitar, “man, look at Simon, you need to learn how to play like that.” To see Simon Gallup at that point in the Cure’s history, during the heyday of their reign over the goth-pop worshiping masses in the mid-80s, was a moment I will never forget. Strumming his bass during a smoke-hazed set that included some of my personal favorite Cure songs, such as “Push” and “A Forest,” kept me glued to the screen in awe of the grandiose setting, and equally magnificent performance. For me, at that very moment, Simon Gallup playing his bass and wearing all black was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
Until a few days ago, I never had the opportunity to see “The Cure: In Orange” in its entirety. The film is yet to be released on DVD or Blu-ray, and VHS copies are a rare find. For years, I was only left with the vague memory of Gallup playing next to a GQ-looking, 27- year old Robert Smith, surrounded by the ancient Roman walls of Théâtre antique d’Orange in the South of France. Thanks to the Cinefamily, which will be screening the film again on January 6th and 9th in Los Angeles, “The Cure: In Orange,” in 35 MM, is available during a brief window for obsessed fans to enjoy. I recently had the pleasure of attending a sold out screening, and in the process, rediscovered the music of the Cure and the magic of one of the most beautiful concerts ever caught on film.
The Head On the Door-era concert film is a meditation on the Cure’s sound and aesthetic, pre- Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (around the summer of 1986), where the classic lineup of Boris Williams (Drums), Porl Thompson (Guitar), Simon Gallup (Bass), Lol Tolhurst (Keyboards), and Robert Smith (Vocals) masterfully recreate 23 songs during their “Beach Party Tour,” a time when the Cure was at their peak, and Robert Smith’s Siouxsie -inspired stage persona was still walking the fine line between reserved and flamboyant. The film itself is an intense experience: 95-minutes of nothing but the Cure, live, without any interview snippets or exclusive backstage footage — except for the moment where Gallup pulls off Smith’s wig and sends it flying before they take the stage.
Tim Pope, the filmmaker and long-time Cure collaborator, manages to capture a wild shoot that includes two cameramen running around the amphitheater and recreating the concert viewing experience on film, and in the process, becoming a part of the show. One notable moment of interaction includes Smith, skipping around the stage during “Close to Me,” getting tangled in the cameraman’s wire and awkwardly tugging his way through the song, smiling, but looking visibly annoyed. Aside from a few minor interruptions of ‘suspension of disbelief,’ Pope gives the viewer a special front row seat for the Cure from every possible vantage point. For example, during “In Between Days,” Pope transports the viewer onto the stage and straps the guitar around their neck, even putting them behind the keyboard, and turning the viewer into the sixth member of the Cure with impressive camera tricks, and an innate ability to capture the special moments of a show.
“The Cure: In Orange,” especially in a crowded movie theater setting full of drunkards and local musicians, is the closest we’ll ever get to seeing the Cure live, during their best years. While the film drags in some parts, especially on more psychedelic Cure numbers, Pope manages to shock the senses during seizure-inducing strobe-lit set toppers like “Give Me It,” which is a bit overwhelming if you’re not ready for it — which I was not.
Ultimately, while Pope’s film manages to produce a unique concert viewing experience, the essence of his vision is overshadowed by moments were even the most diehard Cure fan needs something more to chew on. I myself couldn’t help but wonder what exactly was being said between Smith and Gallup during a few of their memorable exchanges between songs. Still, seeing the Cure in 35 MM does manage to revive the post-punk and new wave ’80s concert-going experience, that I myself, never had the opportunity of experiencing. The Cinefamily has done Cure fans a service by screening this film, and perhaps one day, Robert Smith will release “The Cure: In Orange,” on Blu-ray and tell us, in full detail, about the true story of the Cure during their shining moment near the French countryside, surrounded by ancient walls and screaming teenagers that will forever have that special moment in 1987, where the Cure was it.