AN INSTAGRAM REVIEW OF 'PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE' BY RYAN A
Today on Instagram, Ryan A, aka ryan_spookynerd, posted the image above, along with such an exuberant appreciation for Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, it just has to be shared:
While I know I’ve never discussed any direct adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera, I can’t wait much longer to talk about this 70s reimagination. I’ll admit, my only REAL experience with the original is the 50s Universal version, which is pretty but somewhat underwhelming to me. Jumping right to the beast that is De Palma’s version, it makes me so genuinely happy that he came up with this wacky concept for this story, blending genres and classic literature in the dna of this film. This early in his career, De Palma already has already instilled his own subversive eye into film history. Knowing so little about this going in, the opening with the Juicy Fruits’ performance was a fantastic way not only to make me intrigued from the juxtaposition of the promotional material and this upbeat 50s jukebox song, but a fantastic tonal precedent the film immediately decides on. Winslow Leach is our protagonist, a songwriter who is desperate to be heard. We meet Swan, the owner of “The Paradise” an elaborate theater that houses only the most popular artists of the time, portrayed by Paul Williams, who does an outstanding job. Him and William Finley fit the bill perfect for this Faustian Tale, as the two make a deal, not without Winslow becoming disfigured shortly after. As we see Swan pulling the strings to make the paradise follow a course he paves, we see it largely from Winslow’s new and twisted perspective. This lends itself to De Palma’s voyeuristic fascination, as Winslow is as curious about how evil Swan’s plan of intellectual theft is as he is infatuated with how perfect Phoenix (Jessice Harper) can sing his music. And I feel ya Winslow, Jessica Harper is a scene stealer for sure, and I was genuinely surprised to see her in this, and sing as well as she does. Anyway, Swan oversees Winslow’s complete disfigurement, and continues to use his music for his own gain in a foreseeable portrayal. Winslow’s voice and appearance is an awesome exaggeration of his fate, and fits perfectly with the style of this story. The music in this film is fantastic, which is of course pivotal to this kind of story.
It’s well written and is very pleasing to the ear. I’m not sure how involved in the screenwriting process Paul Williams was, but his soundtrack does a damn fine job of marrying Brian’s script. And man, “The Hell of It” is seriously the end credits song to beat. I love all of the horror references in here, from Phantom of the Opera, to Psycho, to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, etc, it goes to show how immaculate of a melting pot this story is. Orgies, soft slasher vibes, rock and roll obsession, all De Palma at his zaniest. Scenes of lurid violence are rather elegant, with beautiful settings like a rainy window, and bursts of color like the paint-red blood. The production design is my favorite part of this film, it has some of the most gorgeous sets ever put to film in my opinion. Jack Fisk’s eye for the aesthetic of Phantom of the Paradise is near unmatched, and the set dressing was done by Sissy Spacek. It’s consistently spooky, but retains it’s all out climactic insanity until the very end, where all hell breaks loose, and the sheer loss of control of the Paradise is frightening on a deeper level. This has to be one of the best films of the 70s, one of De Palma’s greatest works, and an absolutely insane ride from start to finish.
And then there was this from Amber Kloss, who attended the Jessica Harper double feature at the New Bev last week: