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Pink Floyd - La Carrera Panamerica   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Tuesday, 06 July 2004

I'm not a killjoy, honestly I'm not. But I am a sucker for punishment. Not only do I own a copy of Pink Floyd's frankly, erm, not very good "Ummagumma", but hell, I even sat and watched their movie "La Carrera Panamerica".

The first time I saw it I fell asleep, and I honestly can't think of a worse thing to say about a film than that.

On a list of mistakes in the Floyd career, I would call La Carrera Panamerica certainly the most tasteless. Gasp! As a series of multimillionaire rock stars lord up like royalty around Mexico, Yawn! As endless shots of them driving heroically across vast desert vistas in anonymous helmets as repeated over a dull soundtrack of unreleaseable instrumentals and Cringe! As Rock Stars are fawned over like Gods by starving, hungry children.

To call it a Pink Floyd movie is a bit of an overstatement, as only two of the bands members appear, in curious cameo roles, and manage to say nothing of importance, talking, as they do, only of tyres and engines. After all, La Careera Panamerica is kind of like The Cannonball Run, but without the humour, the style, or even a scratch of drama. But it does have a bunch of rich, humourless old men in stupid leathers driving antiques over desert vistas.

It gets worse. The sequence where the race crew pull into a small Mexican Town to the accompaniment of a huge town parade is, at best, insulting : instead of pointing out the various inequalities of a world where people can spend millions of pounds restoring antique 1952 C-Type Jaguars just to drive the shit out of them in the desert, we get an endless succession of car porn and subtitles like "When these racers come to our crummy Mexican backwater we treat them like Lords".

Frankly, were it not for the inclusion of several instrumental jams taken from the Floyd archives (or pointless re-recordings of much better, old songs), La Carerra Panamerica would not even warrant being made, let alone released.

The main selling point, six previously unreleased Pink Floyd songs, but a handful of remixes/re-recordings of old songs, isn't bad, but neither is it good. Want to hear the Floyd doing an instrumental version of "Run Like Hell" with a drum machine and additions from a cavalcade of roaring engines for ‘atmosphere'? Step right up. Want to hear Gilmour riffing endlessly on a mundane chord progression whilst people talk about gear ratios? Well fast forward to "Mexico 78".

The big pull is, of course, the music, and some of it is fantastic. Of the six new instrumentals - all of which are, frustratingly, chopped to pieces by superfluous interviews and race footage that renders the songs mostly inaudible - the previously mentioned "Mexico 78" and the barely noticed "Slow Carrera Blues" are as mundane as their titles suggest. "Big Theme" and "Pan Am Shuffle" are fabulous (if somewhat meandering) instrumentals that would not be out of place on a recent Floyd album in its own right, and "Small Theme" and "Country Theme" are worthy of inclusion as b-sides. Some of these songs, rightly so, are destined never to be released, but I can't help but wonder when EMI are going to schedule them as bonus tracks on the inevitable Floyd reissue package due out sometimes in 2017 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their debut album.... If you can hear the songs over the roar of engines.

Frankly, the film is boring. It's a rich mans folly. A vanity ego-project. In fact it's so dull that the first time I watched it, and having spent ages tracking down a copy to hear those elusive missing songs, I fell asleep. That's how exciting it is - that unconsciousness seems even more exciting than watching it. It's a dull film, stripped of any of the excitement and glamour one might associate with motor racing, mexico, or Pink Floyd, and doesn't bear repeated examination. It exposes the Floyd to be cosseted, very rich men, living in a world far removed from anything even approaching reality, and even further from common sense. A momentary lapse of reason indeed.

 

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