FANGORIA, SWAN ARCHIVES, AV CLUB & MORE ON WINNIPEG DOC, ETC.
Fangoria distributed a special limited 12-page edition of its magazine at this year's Fantasia Fest, featuring Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise on the cover (shown here), marking the film's 45th anniversary. A few days ago, The Swan Archives posted a brief summary of Fantasia's Phantom events:
Our Principal Archivist just got back home from the Fantasia Festival in Montreal, where Phantom of Winnipeg had its world premiere on Friday, July 11, and Phantom of the Paradise was screened the next night. (Winnipeg also enjoyed an encore screening on Sunday afternoon.) Somewhere around 130 people packed the Salle J.A. DeSeve on Friday, including a number of the Winnipeg fans who are profiled in the documentary. Also in attendance were directors Malcolm Ingram and Sean Stanley, as well as Paul Williams (who is interviewed briefly in the film, as is our Principal Archivist, who somehow ended up with a co-producer credit.) The film, without actually making an attempt to answer the question, "Why Winnipeg," and without taking a position on whether Paradise is actually a good movie or not, is a gentle and loving tribute to the power of fandom to change lives and create community. The plan for the screening of Paradise the following night was that Paul Williams and (Phantom producer) Ed Pressman would "host" the proceedings, with Ed receiving a lifetime achievement award from the festival for the somewhere-around-100 films he has produced, and his role in nurturing promising up and coming directors. Sadly, Ed had injured himself in a fall the day before, and was not able to attend, so, shortly before things got underway, Paul asked our Principal Archivist to moderate a Q&A with Paul, which he nervously did. We hope people enjoyed it, and maybe even heard some anecdotes they hadn't previously encountered. Ed was, fortunately, sufficiently recovered by Monday to appear at the festival remotely, via Skype, to present his scheduled master class. MEANWHILE - a dilemma is brewing in New York, as the Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival will be screening Winnipeg and Paradise and doing a tribute to Ed Pressman, all in mid-October - which is exactly when the Hamptons International Film Festival, two hours away, will be presenting Brian De Palma with a lifetime achievement award, on the occasion of which Alec Baldwin will be doing a Q&A with Mr. De Palma onstage. Why must we suffer so?
Over at AV Club, Katie Rife posted about her time at Fantasia Fest, and seemed rather impressed with all the Phantom action:
It didn’t seem to matter that Sadako was a disappointment, however. The biggest draw of the weekend, and the one that inspired the most childlike excitement in the festival-goers I talked to, was the double dip of redemption for Brian De Palma’s 1974 horror rock opera Phantom Of The Paradise. De Palma rarely talks about the film [De Palma a la Mod note: not exactly a correct statement, as De Palma seems happy to discuss Phantom whenever the subject comes up], and certainly never shows up for retrospective screenings. Star William Finley died in 2012, and Jessica Harper’s busy on the Suspiria circuit, leaving 78-year-old co-star and songwriter Paul Williams to carry the torch of the film’s small but intense—and heavily Canadian—“phandom.” I confess I spent much of the weekend trying to understand the question of why Canada, and specifically Winnipeg, loves this obscure ’70s artifact so damn much, never realizing that I was humming the answer to myself the whole time. It’s stuck in my head right now, in fact.
No one sang along at the 45th anniversary screening of the film on Saturday night, which was held in an appropriately baroque movie palace in downtown Montréal outfitted with marble statues and red velvet seats. Although it shares certain aesthetic qualities with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Phantom Of The Paradise inspires much less audience participation: The self-proclaimed “‘Peggers” in the crowd clapped along with Williams’ Swan when he slaps his gloved hands together three times in the opening scene. But that was it. The rest of the film, whose offbeat glam-rock theatricality I appreciate more every time I see it, unfolded in hushed silence, before the eruption of standing ovation as Williams took the stage for a post-film Q&A. Williams was audibly moved as he thanked the crowd for their undying support, telling them that it was because of them the movie lives on. They loved that.
It was heartwarming to recognize a few Winnipeggers on screen the following morning at a screening of Phantom Of Winnipeg (Grade: B), a crowdfunded documentary that sets out to answer my exact question of why Winnipeg, Manitoba is one of only two places in the world where Phantom Of The Paradise was a hit. (The other was Paris, where the future members of Daft Punk met at a screening.) And the film comes close to providing real insight into the question, going beyond the usual “isn’t this fun” platitudes of a fan documentary to explore how growing up in a cold, isolated area like Winnipeg shapes a person’s sensibilities, as well as how the internet has changed the nature of fandom. That being said, the inclusion of Kevin Smith, whose obsession with Canada is funny but more than a little patronizing, draws attention away from the fans, all of whom are great characters in their own right. One man, who plays in a Phantom cover band and offers to trade his buddy a black Gibson Flying V for a signed copy of the soundtrack, says he saw it 50 times in its initial run. Another woman shows off her handmade Phantom purse, with the Death Records logo on one side and “Trust Me. -Swan” cross-stitched onto the other.
McGill University's student-run magazine The Bull & Bear posted a review of Fantasia's opening weekend by Jacob Klemmer:
In preparation for this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, I looked over my coverage from last year and was utterly shocked that I forgot to mention the presence of Joe Dante, director of many pop-film masterpieces like Gremlins, Small Soldiers, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Joe Dante is a master filmmaker, no doubt, but in the face of emerging genre stars (like the minds behind Cam, Daniel Goldhaber and Isa Mazzei, whom I can genuinely claim to being into Before They Were Cool) it can be easy to ignore the celebrities of Fantasia. But this year, that celebrity is the impossible-to-ignore Paul Williams, star of the 1974 rock opera Phantom of the Paradise. This bonkers, terrifying, hilarious film, one of the first from certified maniac Brian De Palma, was, of course, a massive bomb in North America. Well, everywhere except one place: Winnipeg, where the film made even more than Star Wars and Jaws, and endures till this day.
That seems like one of the made-up Winnipeg factoids that one would find in Guy Maddin’s seminal half-documentary My Winnipeg, but it’s completely true. Phantom of Winnipeg is a documentary about the Winnipeg fans of Phantom (Peggers, as they’re called numerous times by Paul Williams himself, amusingly), more concerned with documenting the purity and joy of their fandom than investigating why it sprung up. It’s a brilliant punchline to watching the film for the first time: you’re drowned in colour and rock and fear and that glorious Phantom getup, and then you learn that the place which wholeheartedly embraced the film was a cold, orderly Canadian city with a dark underbelly; perhaps the most secretive city in all of North America. In my experience, Montreal prefers to wear its weirdness on its sleeve, which is what Fantasia is all about.
And finally, back to Fangoria, whose Editor-in-Chief Phil Nobile Jr. tweeted a week ago that he "was honored to get to speak to Paul Williams" the day before, about Phantom Of Winnipeg and Williams' journey with Phantom Of The Paradise. In the tweet, Nobile included the pic seen here to the left, as well as a pic of his "Invocation" editorial from the Fantasia Fest edition of Fangoria (see image below). Nobile added that he hopes to expand on this Phantom editorial "in a future issue of the mag."