Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Phantom Of The Paradise

Hwhat was even that?




I'm almost at a loss for words, I can't honestly believe how long it took me to finally sit down and watch this movie. Obviously with my severe love of Phantom Of The Opera once many moons ago I heard of this movie, I've seen only a handful of reviews of it so I was walking into this movie pretty much knowing all the major plot beats. So you would think I would have a fair bit to say but I'm floundering here a wee bit. This is a bizzare movie, it's Phantom inspired of course and I could connect the dots from this movie to the source material and all the adaptations more than you can shake a stick at, but it really and truly is a beast all of it's own. Which is odd because I see clear and evident inspirations of Phantom, Faust, even Rocky Horror which didn't even come out until the next year in 1975. It's a smidge campy, a musical, a satire/commentary on the music industry, and a batshit very loose adaptation of Phantom. So the story takes more inspiration from the Claude Rains version as an aspiring composer Winslow Leach has his life's work of a cantata stolen by record mogul Swan to be used in opening his venue the Paradise, and later when he sets out to sabotage the record factory gets horribly disfigured, steals a costume from the Paradise, and terrorizes the venue....for like two scenes. This is where the Leroux Phantom stuff ends, and you're either gonna hate it or love it because of that. Swan basically manipulates Winslow to compose more music with the notion of it being performed by Winslow's love interest/pupil/inspiration Phoenix, and quite literally has Winslow sell his soul to Swan and his record company. I swear I'm not on acid as I write this but by the end of the movie it almost felt like I was. There's actually a fair bit to talk about but this may get disjointed and rambling, so fair warning ye who enter here. Brian DePalma directs, and this was before Carrie but he utilizes the same split screen multi-camera technique seen near the end of Carrie, and that is only the beginning of the camera work being wild in this movie. Films made in modern day wish they could have shots and cinematography like this movie, when the most artsy and experimental they get is a 360° revoultion shot. I'm serious man, like this is almost award winning camera work. There's always mirrors in the background, there's lots of handheld shots, there's flat out a POV Halloween sequence 4 years before Halloween! It's kind of amazing. I think the commentary on the music industry truthfully works better now than back then, and yeah this is a movie unashamedly 70s in every aspect which I'm all there for personally. Paul Williams is such an interesting choice for a villain, but my God does he look like he's having a terrific time playing this devilish oddball of a record producing king. William Finley though not taking up a lot of screentime doing phantomy things is regardless very memorable and does do a good job with the material. Jessica Harper, man that girl can sing good and while she's probably one of the weaker Christine variants she does admirable work the whole way through. Speaking of singing, this soundtrack. F*** me, I beyond any doubt love this soundtrack! It's somewhat in the funky 70s spectrum but when you hear William and Paul sing, and I think that's such a cool effect how when Winslow sings you hear both his and Swan's voice mixed together, it's very timeless sounding with often just piano music for the instrumentation. No joke I had tracks of the soundtrack on my phone before I even saw the movie, that's how good we're talking here. It's an odd fascinating movie to watch but it's influence and love is found in surprising places, Nicholas Cage said this was his favorite Brian DePalma movie and Daft Punk flat out said it was their favorite movie period and how it gave a lot of inspiration in their costumes and music. That's pretty damn cool. It's strange, I have a lot to commend and praise with the movie but I'm having a rough time settling on a rating. It is entertaining and just interesting to watch, the cast is really good, the music is great, the visuals and direction are so specific yet so out there, the story combines bits from many classic horror stories, and I think it probably single handedly is the biggest cult film of the Phantom fandom. I give it 2.5 stars, 7.5/10, I'm gonna lay down and have some wild ass fever dreams tonight.

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