"GREAT FUNHOUSE OF A MOVIE" WAS "PERFECT FIT FOR CARNIVAL ATMOSPHERE"
The Chicago Reader's Ben Sachs posted a recap today of part of last weekend's 70-millimeter screenings at the Music Box Theatre, providing some rationale as to how Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise ended up thrilling a crowd teetering on disappointment after finding out that a much-anticipated screening of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey had to be cancelled. Here is what Sachs writes about it:
"Sometimes anticipation can bring out the best in a crowd. Case in point, the hundreds of people who went to the Music Box Theatre on Friday night to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on 70-millimeter—as part of the theater's two-week celebration of that format—didn't seem to mind waiting outside in the cold for nearly an hour, nor did they complain much when the film didn't start on time. Even when an unforeseen technical problem forced the screening to be canceled altogether, the house remained pleasant, with most of the audience staying put for a free screening of Brian DePalma's Phantom of the Paradise. (The problem was fixed in time for the subsequent screenings of 2001.)
"The promise of seeing something new, or at least novel, appeals to the child in each of us. It must be linked to the thrill of unwrapping a gift. Regardless of whether the present turns out to be a pair of socks (or, to cite one of the snoozefests in the current Music Box series, Lord Jim), there's undeniable satisfaction in knowing someone wrapped it up nice to gain our attention. P.T. Barnum demonstrated time and again that a good showman can make an audience feel good even about being taken in by a hoax; the buildup, which grows in direct proportion to the size of the audience, becomes a spectacle in itself.
"As it turned out, Phantom of the Paradise was a perfect fit for Friday night's carnival atmosphere. It's a great funhouse of a movie, complete with scary clowns and oversized sets (by the great Jack Fisk, who also worked on The Master, screening next weekend in the 70-millimeter festival). Even on plain old 35-millimeter, it was a blast on the Music Box's big screen. DePalma made the film at the height of his abilities as a showman (just after Sisters and not long before Carrie), indulging in split-screen sequences, cartoonish sight gags, and elaborate camera movements that exist just to call attention to themselves."