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Domino is
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De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
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musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
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Washington Post
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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

In a FaceTime video call conversation for Interview Magazine, Edgar Wright talks movies and music with Wet Leg's Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers. When asked by Chambers to name one of his favorite movies, Wright tells them about Phantom Of The Paradise:
WRIGHT: So, you’ve been sitting on this amazing debut for nearly a year.

TEASDALE: Yeah, we finished recording, but then we had to do all the artwork and get it mixed and mastered. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year, it feels like we only really finished it six months ago. When you finish a film, how long until it’s released?

WRIGHT: It depends on when it’s supposed to come out. Hot Fuzz came out like a month after it was finished. It was really down to the wire. But Last Night in Soho was disrupted by the pandemic, so we shot nearly all of it in 2019 and 2020, and it came out in 2021. It’s really emotional for me to watch that film, because it feels like so much happened in the space and time of the production. So it depends on what it is, really, and whether there’s a global pandemic or not.

TEASDALE: When you watch your own stuff, are you transported to that version of you? Do you put yourself into your art and your characters?

WRIGHT: Oh, yeah. That’s what’s strange—Shaun of the Dead is a film about a zombie apocalypse, Hot Fuzz is a film about cops in Somerset, Last Night in Soho is about a Cornish fashion student coming to London with supernatural powers—and I say, “Oh, they’re all really personal.” [Laughs] People are like, “How?” But you do put yourself into them, and you’re dramatizing your own mundane experiences into something more exciting. You guys are from the Isle of Wight, and I grew up in Dorset and Somerset, so a lot of what I’ve done is the product of being bored as a teenager. Somerset a very picturesque and beautiful place, but when you’re a teenager, picturesque is not what you want—you want to get to the city. Now I’m older and I think more fondly about my bucolic childhood in the country. So, all of the things you make become like love/hate letters to the place that you’re from.

TEASDALE: Yeah, I can relate to that.

WRIGHT: I can feel those country vibes in your work as well. The album seems to have themes. One theme is that it seems like you guys get annoyed at house parties a lot.

TEASDALE: Yeah. FOMO is such a thing, isn’t it? And you’re always trying to “live your best life,” but sometimes you just need to listen to yourself, and maybe just don’t don’t go to the party. I’m not able to do that quite often.

WRIGHT: I didn’t have Instagram when I was growing up, so I was always thinking that there must be something cooler going on without me. I grew up feeling like I was never going to the cool parties, but it seems like, from your album, that you’ve been to the cool parties, and you’re not impressed.

TEASDALE: Yeah, that’s it.

WRIGHT: I think it’s a good message to tell the young people out there: don’t worry guys, you’re not missing that much.

CHAMBERS: We’ve dipped our toes in the little pool of music videos, but you are a filmmaker. We are not filmmakers, but if you had a tip for us, what would it be? Also, what’s one of your favorite movies?

WRIGHT: Well, what makes you think that you’re not filmmakers? That doesn’t make any sense, because you already have a point of view and an aesthetic. You can tell what a Wet Leg video is just from the four that you’ve released already, which is great. Why don’t you make a Wet Leg movie? Here’s the pitch: every attraction at Blackgang Chine comes to life, and only Wet Leg can stop the chaos from spreading across the rest of the world.

TEASDALE: [Gasps] The Mouth of Hell.

CHAMBERS: The Weather Wizard!

TEASDALE: The Rumpus Mansion!

CHAMBERS: There’s also a really scary Humpty-Dumpty there.

WRIGHT: Okay, I’m going to suggest a favorite film of mine. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t imagine you guys not loving it. Have you ever seen the 1974 musical Phantom of the Paradise?

TEASDALE: Phantom of the Paradise? No, I haven’t seen that.

WRIGHT: I’m going to get it to you because I cannot imagine that you wouldn’t love it. It’s like a rock musical. It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Faust, it’s got a ‘70s score written by Paul Williams, and it’s fantastic. That’s one of my favorite films that I think you guys would dig.

TEASDALE: I’ve written it down. One last question, do you have a DVD collection?

WRIGHT: I do, I can show you. Hang on, we’ll take a little walk. Buffalo ’66 is not there because I looked for it earlier. Look, here you go, this is what I was doing during the lockdown.

[Wright shows Wet Leg his substantial DVD collection]


WRIGHT: Physical media—it hasn’t gone away! Who knows when the internet will go? I’ve still got a lot of Blu Rays to organize. I can’t stop buying them— I went on a bit of a crazy Amazon kick during the lockdown. The Oxfam around the corner from my house has had a steady stream of the ones I’ve been giving away. I donate a lot of horror films to the Oxfam. I wonder about the kind of the person that goes in there and finds all these really hardcore horror films. Somebody’s going to have a wild afternoon.

TEASDALE: We love horror films.

WRIGHT: What are some of your favorite horror films?

TEASDALE: Evil Dead.

CHAMBERS: I like Death Becomes Her, I think that’s such a funny film.

WRIGHT: I saw that at Bournemouth when I was at art college. I haven’t seen it since— I don’t want to guess a lady’s age—but probably before you guys were alive.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 14, 2022 12:02 AM CDT
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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"We pull directors names out of a bag & watch their films chronologically." So reads the bio/description on the Instagram page of philm_philes, aka Hayley & Joshua. Last week, Hayley and Joshua began watching Brian De Palma's films, chronologically, beginning with Murder a la Mod. "It’s not a great film by any stretch of the word," Hayley wrote of Murder a la Mod, "but there’s plenty of imagination, blossoming skills, and some unexpected twist and turns, and at the beginning of a career that’s what matters." When the philm_philes got to The Wedding Party a couple of days later, they acknowledged that the latter is De Palma's first feature film. "The movie hit me like a ton of bricks," Joshua said of The Wedding Party two days ago. "I thought it was hilarious and unbelievably well made (especially considering this is technically De Palmas first movie). The dialog, editing, pacing and absolutely enthralling choices made by background actors you may see once for 20 seconds help deepen for me what would otherwise be a pedestrian take on young men and their loose grasp on commitment."

Tonight, the philm_philes watched Phantom Of The Paradise -- here are their reactions:

Joshua: on paper, there was almost a zero percent chance I was gunna dig this movie. Turns out I’m very thankful movies aren’t paper. What a ride! Why does no one talk about this movie?!??! And De Palma’s directing MAKES this film.

Hayley: THIS MOVIE RULES! It’s as if Phantom of the Opera and Rocky Horror made a baby on acid.

Posted by Geoff at 11:45 PM CST
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Saturday, February 19, 2022

Over at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Sarah Welch-Larson has written a deeply fine-tuned analysis of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, accompanied by a beautiful illustration from Toronto-based artist Tom Ralston. Go read the entire article from start to finish, but here's an excerpt:
Where the Juicy Fruits come across as unselfconscious and ironic, and where Phoenix comes across as earnest almost to the point of desperation, their successor (Gerrit Graham) is willing to lean into knowing camp, and all the excesses that come with it. Even his improbable (incredible!) name—Beef—is a wink toward voracious appetites, and more than just a nod to sexual innuendo. Beef is artificial, swimming in irony. Beef knows the rules of the production game, and he’s in on the joke. He matches Swan’s excesses with excesses of his own, slipping across the stage in wooden high-heeled shoes, his hair caked in glitter and coiffed like that of a classical Greek statue. He pronounces the word “professional” with extra syllables. The Juicy Fruits’ presentation might have been cobbled together from genre to genre, but Beef beats the label band at their own game by performing dressed as Frankenstein’s monster—a man created by the label purely to sell music in spectacular fashion.

And De Palma—like Swan and his cronies—sells spectacle here, more than anything else. The entire film is soaked in color: crimson and gold in the hallways of the titular Paradise club, metallics shining in the microphones and musical instruments, and the flash of neon lights in pink, green, and yellow in the background at every show. Paradise attendees and auditioning hopefuls wear clothing in natural fibers and floral prints, nature untouched by Swan, the devil in a shag haircut and leisure suit. The performers on stage, in contrast, wear sequins and spandex, synthetic materials in spectacular colors and shapes. Phoenix starts off dressed simply enough, but dons a coat made entirely of pheasant feathers once she’s been crowned Swan’s newest favorite. The Phantom wears black skin-tight leather, a void of a man who’s been emptied of his art by a soulless producer. Even the blood, when it’s finally spilled, is cherry red. It pops off the screen, mortal seriousness masked in a cartoon shade.

The cartoony nature of the visuals sells the faux-glamor of the Paradise better than any realistic style could; the exaggerated nature of the sets, cheap as they might look, gives the movie an appearance of being that much larger than life. Swan’s production company, Death Records, features winding, impractical black-and-white corridors that twist through the building with no discernible logic, in an inefficient and extravagant use of space. Before he becomes the Phantom, Winslow Leach enters the building hoping to be signed by Swan. He finds nothing of substance: no recording studios, no instruments, no producer, just a woman in a Death Records t-shirt filing her nails behind a desk, and a record press that will maim Leach’s face, driving him to haunt the Paradise for revenge.

Where Death Records is sparse, the Paradise is ornate: the club is festooned with mirrors, doing double duty to make the building’s interior look bigger, even though the images those mirrors reflect have no real substance. Swan can see himself from any angle in those mirrors, can admire his own self-declared perfection whenever he’d like. He knows himself for the devil he is. The Phantom, on the other hand, can’t confront himself in those same mirrors. He shies away; they magnify his burned face, and with it his failure to hold on to the rights to his own music. The Phantom covers his face in shining metal armor to protect him from pity and scorn, including his own.



Before it all goes to hell, before Leach is signed to a contract under Swan, before he’s disfigured and trapped within the Paradise’s walls as the Phantom, before the opulence of the Paradise is shown to be a sham, Leach plays piano in a club. He might be an unsigned artist playing unpopular music, but De Palma treats that art with respect. The camera swirls around Leach as he plays and sings, the lens holding a tight focus on his face. Everything else falls away. There’s no artifice: Leach’s music, with no frills added, is the only art in the world that matters. He’s certainly the only artist in the building; he’s playing to an empty club. The only person in-film who can hear him is Swan, and tragically, Swan doesn’t hear Leach the way we do. He only hears a song that he wants to repurpose for the opening of the Paradise.

Months in the future and miles away, Phoenix is pushed on the stage at the opening of the Paradise. Beef has flamed out on stage, murdered by the vengeful Phantom, and in his desperation to keep the show going, Swan turns to the singer he’d rejected for being too perfect and too innocent. She steals the show with a song Leach wrote for her.

“Old Souls” is an anomaly—a slow love ballad, far more restrained than any other song in the film. The piano accompanying Phoenix’s performance takes a back seat to Jessica Harper’s voice. The maximalist stage setting from Beef’s performance is gone, replaced by a simple velvet curtain; the raucous audience screaming that they want Beef is silenced. They’re held rapt by everything Swan has previously discarded. Instead of glitter, darkness; instead of Beef’s stagy hypermasculinity, Phoenix’s unpracticed and unguarded femininity; instead of processed false youth, a song about a love older than the lovers experiencing it.

“All souls last forever so we need never fear goodbye,” sings Phoenix, and for a moment, the artifice driving Phantom of the Paradise falls away. There’s no need to sell youth anymore, because there’s nothing to fear from aging. Phoenix’s song is genuine because it embraces change and age, and it refuses to put a price tag on the love around which the lyrics turn. Phoenix isn’t selling anything to her audience; she’s giving it away for free.

Posted by Geoff at 6:01 PM CST
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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Let's start at the beginning: there's a podcast called Caged In: Coppola Connections that stems from the host, Petros, having "watched, reviewed, and lost his mind watching every Nicolas Cage film." That podcast looks "at the Coppola family, whether it's Francis Ford Coppola or Patricia Arquette for the 5 years she was married to Nicolas Cage." Now comes a spinoff, or "sister podcast," titled Movie Brat Bros., and season one, "De Palma-Rama," delves into the filmography of Brian De Palma. For the first episode, Petros is "joined by Jeanette and Daryl Bär to discuss Brian De Palma's 1974 Musical Horror Comedy, Phantom Of The Paradise." According to the episode description from Petros, "We chat the the plot, production and legacy of this film whilst seeing how it compares to Francis Ford Coppola's '74 output. We dive into the cultural impact of this film and the other Movie Brats' musicals."

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Thursday, December 30, 2021

"Steven Spielberg's West Side Story is the latest example that you don't need a background in musicals to direct a great one," states Colin Wessman's sub-headline for an article posted the other day at Collider. The headline reads, "8 Directors Who Were a Surprisingly Great Match for the Musical," and Wessman includes Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise in the mix:
It’s hard to say if Brian De Palma spent the majority of his career working in the thriller and horror genres just because he felt most comfortable there, or if Phantom Of The Paradise kept him there. The rock musical was a both a critical and box-office failure, but it has gained a cult following in the years since for how distinctly strange it is. Anchored by the original music (and an unlikely leading role) from pop maestro Paul Williams, the movie is a glitzy riff on The Phantom Of The Opera about a disfigured songwriter who lives inside a theater owned by a benevolent record producer who — as the immortal tagline states — sold his soul for rock ’n’ roll.

Despite its lofty ambitions as a modern-day Faust or Dorian Gray (in addition to Phantom of the Opera) that seeks to satirize the music industry, the movie is perhaps best viewed as a wonderfully gaudy spectacle that would make a great double feature with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. De Palma’s success with his next film, Carrie, launched him into the stratosphere of great genre directors, and though De Palma would never direct anything this zany again, Phantom Of The Paradise still has plenty of the director’s trademarks. Though his films often have a kind of meticulousness that lends him to the obsession of many a movie nerd, he’s also prone to the kinds of bombastic flourishes (see John Cassavetes’ entire body exploding in The Fury) that make this such a cult-y delight.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A couple of interviews with Paul Williams were posted today, centered around a new stage version of Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. Williams has written four new songs for the musical, adding to the songs he'd written for the original TV movie in 1977.

From an interview article by Rob Weinert-Kendt at American Theatre:

Now a new stage adaptation mixing live actors and puppets—with a book by Timothy Allen McDonald and Christopher Gattelli, who also directs—is arriving at New Victory Theatre in New York City for a holiday run (Dec. 10-Jan. 2, 2022), after a 2009 staging at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House. I’ll be there with jingle bells on, of course. In the meantime, I had a chance to speak to Williams, who started out in show business as a child actor, and whose arrival as a writer for the theatre seems long overdue (but not for lack of trying).

ROB WEINERT-KENDT: I should know this, but I don’t: Have you had stage work produced in New York before?

PAUL WILLIAMS: Not really. I’ve got an unproduced musical I’m working on with Gustavo Santaolalla of Pan’s Labyrinth, with Guillermo del Toro, but everything came to a sliding halt in the last couple of years, of course. But the theatrical experience of mine that has had the greatest success has to be Bugsy Malone, and that’s been more in the United Kingdom. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that…

Oh, yeah. I’m the ideal age for your work; I grew up on this stuff.

Well, it keeps going, you know, with new generations. What’s wonderful is that the things I did in the 1970s or early ’80s that were not successful seemed to create fans that over the years would show up and say, “Let’s do something together,” whether it’s Edgar Wright with Baby Driver or Daft Punk, who saw Phantom of the Paradise in Paris 20 times. I never call something a failure; it’s on a back burner, and all of a sudden, eventually something wonderful will happen.

I have a very Jiminy Cricket philosophy about life, especially with anything involving Jim Henson. It was just a magical relationship with the whole family through so much of my life. It started out with just Jim going, “Hey, you want to do this?” It’s kind of an Americana story, a sweet little book that became a one-hour special. I met with Jim and said, “It’s interesting, I keep getting hired to write things I know nothing about.” Have you ever seen Emmet Otter?

It’s one of my favorite things. Can you talk a bit about why you think it’s special?

The fact is that in anything I did with with Jim, and hopefully anything that I really connect with, the songs come out of the story and the characters. The major mistake I’ve seen many pop songwriters who try to work in theatre make is they try to write a hit song. I seem to be able, not only in theatre, to have a spell where I won’t write a hit song but I’ll write something like Emmet Otter or The Muppet Movie or Bugsy Malone, where I just fall in love with the characters.

From an interview article by David Gordon at TheaterMania:
How was the original Emmet Otter film project pitched to you?
Jim sent me the original book [by Russell and Lillian Hoban] and Jerry Juhl's script. The songs and even the underscoring happened very quickly. I was on the road in Vegas and I went into the studio with my road band and I was singing and even playing lines of underscoring. It was very organic and it was so enjoyable — there was an enthusiasm that I felt that was bounced back at me. It's interesting; there's something about the Muppets that unleashes kinds of music in me that I had never written before.

Did the stage musical happen the same way?
One of the really amazing things was that we had had a conversation with Tim McDonald about a couple of things, and we talked about Emmet Otter, which we all thought was just a natural. Right after that, he reached out to Chris Gattelli, and out of the blue, Chris said he wanted to do Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas as a musical. All of a sudden, it was like we were getting a nudge from Jim Henson's ghost or memory. We did it at Goodspeed two years in a row, and now it'll be nice to see Emmet after all these years again.

Tell me about the musical material that you added for the stage show.
I wrote four new songs, but it doesn't feel like a major change from what I wrote originally and what I added. The spirit of Emmet and Ma and all the characters pretty much lives on. There's a visit from Pa Otter who reassures Ma that she's not an old dreamer. It becomes this song "Alice, keep dreaming/I'm right here beside you/I'm close as the sun/when it's warm on your fur." Everybody always asks me about "Born in a Trunk," which was cut from the film and why there isn't a full version of it, so I wrote a full version of it. "I was born in a trunk in the great oak tree that was used to build the stage of the Palace." When I can have that much fun writing, it just isn't work.

What's your takeaway from the 2021 reappearance of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas after all these years?
One of my favorite things to remind myself is "don't call something a failure just because it doesn't get done right away." You know, Phantom of the Paradise, which was a Brian De Palma movie I did in 1974 had the world's tiniest audience. And now, Daft Punk and Edgar Wright and all these people have showed up saying "I love that movie." It's not too late.

The quality of acting and that mixture of Muppets and live actors in Emmet Otter on stage is a really interesting combination. I think that it has the sentimentality, but Tim and Chris maintain the level of edgy humor that is just so important in everything Jim Henson ever did. I think you will be really, really pleased.

Posted by Geoff at 11:30 PM CST
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Monday, November 29, 2021

Ari Kahan will be on hand to present a "very special screening" of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise December 15th at The Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Kahan will also "share an incredible slide-show presentation," according to thepeacheschrist:
The FIRST EVER Midnight Mass Podcast screening is coming soon, Dec. 15th at @roxie_theater!!! Don’t miss this rare and special screening of Brian De Palma’s 1974 rock opus, THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE! Join your hosts Peaches Christ & Michael Varrati for a stage-show version & recording of their Midnight Mass cult movie podcast before a rare screening of the film like you’ve never seen it before. To help them best delve into the psychotronic, Faustian world of this masterpiece they’ve invited Trixxie Carr to do a live performance. They’ll also be joined by the Phantom Mayor himself Ari Kahan, curator of The Swan Archives, which has been dedicated to the preservation of PHANTOM history since nearly the beginning. Ari will share an incredible slide-show presentation! And please don’t forget to DRESS UP for the glam rock lip-synch competition! Tickets are now on sale at ROXIE.com

Posted by Geoff at 11:17 PM CST
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Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Roxy Cinema shared this news yesterday:
Sean Price Williams Hosts A Screening of Phantom Of The Paradise in 35MM

Sean Price Williams is one of our favorite working cinematographers today, he is known for shooting movies for The Safdie Brothers, Alex Ross Perry, and Michael Almereyda, but he boasts an impressive list of over 102 credits. Sean also worked as an archivist and cameraman for the Maysles brothers for over a decade. You may have also caught him selling DVD’s at Kims Video in the east village in the early 2000’s. Sean is known for his unique vision and lushness that he brings to film. He is the favorite among many, but the other alluring part of him is his deep love and wealth of knowledge for cinema. He watches more movies than anyone else we know and has impeccable taste. So it naturally only made sense that we would want him to host a series of films he loves. The first one is this Thursday 10/21 at 7 PM. We scored a 35mm print of the Brian De Palma film Phantom Of The Paradise, on his recommendation of course. You can get tickets here

Following the screening will be a Q&A with Sean Price Williams.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

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:

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Monday, October 11, 2021

"I don’t know how else to describe Phantom of the Paradise than to say it’s the living, breathing embodiment of rock and roll. It’s all in the attitude, a Serge-Gainsbourg-setting-flame-to-a-500-franc-bill-on-live-French-television kind of attitude. And a gesture clearly evidenced in Brian De Palma’s handling of the original source material, which includes the literary likes of Faust, Phantom of the Opera, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. But you may find something beautiful from this onslaught of inspirations. And you don’t need the help of the illicit to hear it. The color of sound."

So begins Daniel Hrncir in his review of Phantom Of The Paradise, posted the other day at Full Circle Cinema. After delving into the plot of the film, Hrncir continues:

I’ve probably already given you the wrong impression of what I think is Brian De Palma’s best. The plot itself may seem like a downer if it was not for the film succumbing to sheer excess. What a concept for our twentieth-first-century streaming age, where everything has a standard of quality, but not a twinge of soul. Hollywood, so wanting to please the greatest numbers, forgoes the opportunity to challenge its audiences. Meanwhile, De Palma spends every minute challenging his audience with a spectacular mess. And in doing so, Phantom of the Paradise becomes something truly great.

At one moment in the film, Winslow plants a bomb beside a performance of bikini-glad girls and beach boys to get back at Swan. And I tell you what, I laughed. Not because I condone terrorism, but that these surfer teens go up in flames and Swan does not even react. Once again, De Palma employs his split-screen technique in this scene and it’s chaotic, to say the least. Voices off-stage clash with the performance itself in a manner befitting The Velvet Underground’s ‘The Murder Mystery’. And even if you evenly split your eyes between both scenes simultaneously, you still wouldn’t be able to grasp the buzzing activity. You would have to split your ears to catch it all too. But that is okay. It is okay for a movie to trip you up, to confuse or confound you. More movies need to do that.

It would be remiss of me not to mention some of Phantom of the Paradise‘s sweeter moments. Yes, there are blood and guts for the hard rock fans, but much to be had for the sentimental Carpenter fans too. I must confess that I am a Jessica Harper fan, and some of my favorite moments come through with her performance as Phoenix. I had no clue that she could sing, and neither did Winslow and his discovery of her at an audition. Again, excess.

Her performances of ‘Special To Me’ and ‘Old Souls’ do nothing to further the plot, and yet I am so captivated by these moments. They remind me so much of why I fell in love with movies in the first place. I guess it all feels so real in its amateurishness. Nothing about her dancing or singing feels blocked or scripted to tedium like in a Lin-Manuel Miranda production. At the outro of ‘Special To Me’, Harper lets it all loose with a dance off-stage, only to walk back exorcised of her need to move and groove. I wouldn’t even call it particularly good dancing, but that is beside the point. Her sheer confidence makes it a higher art, with an authenticity that goes beyond what the written script calls for. Disney only wishes it could capture such magic.

Meanwhile, Phantom Of The Paradise screens tonight at The Belcourt in Nashville, as part of its "Music City Mondays" series. And on October 27th, the Mercury CX Cinematheque in Adelaide, South Australia will screen a Jessica Harper double feature: Phantom Of The Paradise, followed by Shock Treatment.

Posted by Geoff at 8:11 PM CDT
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