In this post, I look at the possibility that the depiction of Prince in his role as ‘The Kid’ in Albert Magnoli’s Purple Rain (1984) offered a model for the recreation the mythical musician Orpheus in French director Jacques Demy’s film Parking (1985).
The key visual connection between the two films is a correspondence between the two artists’ arrivals at their performance venues early in both films. Demy’s introduction of Orpheus as a pop star begins in stark contrast to Purple Rain‘s opening sequence, but then shifts to a striking note of similarity with Purple Rain‘s introduction of The Kid. Both he and Orpheus arrive at their performance venue on motorcycle with a guitar slung across his back, each clad in, and riding a motorcycle of, their signature color — purple for The Kid, white for Orpheus. This connection, however, is embedded in a broader series of relationships that the opening minutes of each film introduce.
Demy imagines Orpheus as a white, French celebrity pop singer, very much established in his career, though dissatisfied with his own relationship to his art.  Over the course of the film, we learn that he is bisexual, carrying on a secret (from Eurydice anyway) affair with Calaïs, a member of his entourage. The audience first encounters Orpheus as a lover joyfully fawning over – and simultaneously serenading – a semi-nude Eurydice (Keiko Ito).  Orpheus leaves on his motorcycle at minute 2:10, following the musical carpet romp with Eurydice.
Purple Rain introduces us to The Kid simultaneously with his rival Morris (Morris Day) and future lover Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero). His status as the main character is established in the film’s first scene, which shows him performing onstage, followed by cuts back to this performance. This point of reference stands outside the timeline of the rest of the opening sequence, which also treats The Kid’s pre-show preparations, while periodically cutting to him as he readies himself. Morris and The Kid appear through intercut scenes as they dress and style themselves in their relatively humble domestic circumstances. The Kid lives at his parents’ home (we see part of his room during this sequence). Morris is vacuuming his cramped apartment in his underwear and selecting his suit. The Kid gazes sensually into his mirror, smiles, licks his lips. Morris emerges, clad in a long white overcoat, to be picked up by his friend Jerome (Jerome Benton) for a grand arrival at the First Avenue Club. The Kid arrives at the club on his motorcycle. Apollonia enters the sequence at this point.
Parking blends these details. After making love with Eurydice, Orpheus emerges from his house, as does Morris. He is dressed and helmeted in white, which is the color of Morris’ overcoat as he gets into the car. Orpheus slings his guitar across his back (pointed down) and mounts his motorcycle. The Kid arrives at the club on his motorcycle with his guitar slung across his back (pointed up).
Although Parking starts with the preexisting relationship of Orpheus and Eurydice, Orpheus’ ride to the concert hall is considerably more extended than the quick cut to The Kid’s arrival. It provides the backdrop for the opening credits. The length of the ride alters our perspective on Eurydice’s role in his life. As Orpheus nears the performance arena, he grows literally and figuratively more distant from her and crosses (we later learn) into the territory he shares with his lover Calaïs, who works backstage at his concerts. In Purple Rain, by contrast, the performance space brings all three main characters into the same orbit.
As final note, I mention one piece of circumstantial evidence which suggests to me that Purple Rain could have been on Demy’s horizon in its production or preproduction stages. The two films share an indirect connection. Michel Colombier, composer for Demy’s 1982 Une Chambre en Ville (A Room in Town), is credited alongside Prince and John Nelson with the music for Purple Rain.
Colombier did not do the music for Parking. That job was filled by Michel Legrande; however, the fact that this earlier collaborator of Demy worked on a current, broadly similar type of film — i.e. a musical performer’s navigation of art, identity, and romance — suggests that Demy could have learned of it in advance, that it would have been of interest to him upon its release, and that he might have incorporated the above elements. 
In the meantime, I am planning a future post in which I look at parallels between The Kid in Purple Rain and Orpheus in cinema (especially Parking and Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950)).
 In addition to wealth and celebrity status, race marks a major difference between the two films. Two of Purple Rain‘s three major characters are black (biracial in The Kid’s case) and the third, Apollonia, is Latina, though her background is not specified in the film.
 I’m uncertain how common the white male/asian female couple was in French film at the time, but the racial casting of a white (male) and Asian (female) couple seems to recall that of the highly influential 1981 French music-themed film Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix) in which Franco-Vietnamese actor Thuy An Luu portrays Alba, the lover and all purpose operative of the idiosyncratic white philosopher/opera fan Gorodish (Richard Bohringer). Although Eurydice’s name obscures the character’s ethnicity, when she dies, there is Japanese writing seen on the mirror near her body. Since she is an artist in a relationship with an immensely popular singer, who is ultimately shot by deranged fans, it seems likely that the casting is meant to evoke John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon’s death was four years earlier.
 Two possibilities for future study: (a) Find out, if possible, more information about the production schedules of both films to get a sense of the available time Demy would have had, following the release of Purple Rain. A second, possibly easier, task would be to develop a better sense of how common the shared elements in these two introductory sequences were in films generally at this time.