Monday, September 28, 2015

Phantom of the Paradise Review

There is a scene in the film Phantom of the Paradise in which a crowd of people all are chanting "BEEF! BEEF! BEEF!". At this point I had already realized I was going to enjoy the hell out of this film, but in that moment I fell in love.

A buddy of mine asked me to watch and review this one and he provided me a Blu-ray copy in order to do so. I literally read nothing prior to pressing the play and the only indication I had of the strangeness that was to ensue came from the colorful and odd cover of the case. Never expected what I saw, and I mean that in a terrific sort of way.

You have to understand, I only recently experienced Scarface for the first time so I am still bathing in the glow of Brian De Palma and his brilliant camera work, which is again on display here, but tonally Phantom of the Paradise took me in a strange, unsettling yet joyous direction that I never could have anticipated. It's weird, it's ridiculous, it's a rock opera horror comedic drama that tickled me in every way I am eager to be touched. Cinematic speaking, of course.

Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a composer and singer who has his music stolen by the mysterious producer Swan (Paul Williams), and when Leach arrives at Swan's record label to find out what happened he is abruptly and oh so rudely thrown out. He attempts to sneak in and he sees a group of women performing his music, one of which is the beautiful and talented Phoenix (Jessica Harper). Winslow knows she is perfect for it. Anyone listening would hear it too. Their connection is more than that though, it's deeper than just her voice and his melody, but before anything can truly develop again Swan has him removed and beat up and framed for a drug crime.

I don't want to spell out every detail of this wacky and wonderful piece of cinema, but Winslow winds up getting a life sentence and he is sent to Sing Sing prison where they pull out all his teeth, some crazy shit happens and he ends up being disfigured and out for revenge. He also is literally walled in by bricks and concrete at one point. 

It's completely absurd and yet here I am, embracing the absurdity. It's something that must be done with surreal and strange cinema and Phantom of the Paradise fits into that category. De Palma has a vision and he brings it to life beautifully, 

Watch this film and don't complain about it being "weird". Embrace the absurdity. Let the Phantom into your heart.


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