DISSOLVE MOVIE OF THE WEEK; POP MATTERS - "MY FIRST MIDNIGHT MOVIE"
As we mentioned the pther day, Phantom Of The Paradise is the Movie Of The Week at The Dissolve this week, and things kicked off Tuesday with Noel Murray's terrific Keynote essay, "The double vision of Phantom Of The Paradise."
"Few filmmakers use split-screens as creatively as Brian De Palma," Murray states in the essay. After offering an example from Sisters, Murray continues, "But De Palma is just as skilled at partitioning the screen without drawing a straight line down the middle. Throughout his career, De Palma has used split-diopter shots, layered foreground/background action, mirrors, windows, and other clever bits of set design to set his characters off from each other and from their environments. In Phantom Of The Paradise, De Palma breaks out some of those gimmicks for multiple reasons: sometimes to squeeze more info into the frame, sometimes to draw connections between the characters, and sometimes just to cue viewers that they’d better keep their eyes open, and not to assume everything about the movie is immediately evident. In its roughest outline, Phantom Of The Paradise is the story of a naïve musician who has his life ruined by an impresario: a one-dimensional cautionary tale about commerce gobbling up and destroying art. But Winslow and Swan—played by William Finley and Paul Williams, respectively—aren’t as at odds as the basic scenario implies. The characters share more than just the same space on a movie screen."
Be sure to check out The Dissolve's staff forum on Phantom.
POP MATTERS: "MY FIRST MIDNIGHT MOVIE"
Meanwhile, at PopMatters, Bill Gibron posts about seeing Phantom Of The Paradise at a packed midnight screening when he was just 13. Here's an excerpt:
Sure, there’s some blood, and a bit of over the top directorial flare, but for the most part, this fascinating musical is more complicated than it is conventional. It deviates wildly in tone, going for the broadest of comedy strokes (thanks to Gerrit Graham’[s] sexually ambiguous glam rocker, Beef) to the most diabolical of satanic substance. When Williams’ Swan is finally exposed, the make-up effects are unsettling. In fact, the whole film has a sadistic undercurrent that is easily recognizable now.
Back in 1974, however, Tom and I were dumbstruck. We were both terrified and oddly intrigued. This was like nothing we had ever seen before, and even then, a legitimate frame of reference probably wouldn’t have helped. I remember being taken in by Winslow’s opening number, a sweeping piano piece that, even today, gives me goosebumps.
I didn’t get the reference in the title, “Faust”, but I could see how it fit in the film. I didn’t remember any other music (except for Beef’s final performance where he picked up members of the crowd and threw them like ragdolls back into the throng before being electrocuted by the Phantom with neon lightning bolts). Today, the film plays like a lost gem. Back them, Tom and I were convinced we had lost our minds.
Maybe it was a bit of a contact high. Perhaps we were just too young to appreciate the whole midnight movie experience. By the time we walked out of the theater it was clear that both Tom and I were deep in our own little world. Dazed, we almost passed his mother, car idling, her hair in a mess of curlers and wearing a sheepish housecoat. It was close to 2AM. We never stayed up that before.
Even after we were at Tom’s house and settled in to his basement train set-up/bedroom area, we were electric. We talked and talked. We puzzled and questioned. We tried to make sense of what we saw. For at least two weeks afterwards, we spent countless hours in conversation with our mutual friends just trying to figure out what the heck happened, and when we could experience something similar again.