The Phantom of the Opera

Dir: Joel Schumacher
Star: Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson

I kinda wonder why it took the gayest director in Hollywood 25 years to get round to making a musical. Yet, I can't argue that the material here is phenomenally strong: the story (which I won't even bother to detail) has lasted a hundred years, and the musical is also among the most popular of all-time. Both have endured with reason, though this version is ruthlessly cleansed of almost all horror elements: the Phantom here (Butler) is less hideous monster, than a hunk with slightly bad skin, defusing the heroine's dilemma to something requiring little more than soothing lotion. Gone is the agony of choosing between a conventional suitor and the monster with the soul of an angel - here, the Phantom wins on all angles, except his front-right profile. The songs are, however, great, and the soundtrack (Broadway cast, anyway: Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman) has been in heavy rotation here since seeing this. The entire house now has them stuck in their head, something of a feat given our widely disparate tastes.

The cast almost all sing their own songs (save Minnie Driver - ironically, she had most singing experience), and the fantastic elements make it a good candidate for cinematic adapatation. Schumacher has an eye for this, most notably the opening, where raising the chandelier transforms a dilapidated opera house back into the pristine version of its heyday. As a horror film...well, actually, it's no more horror than The Sound of Music or My Fair Lady. As a lush romance with tunes more infectious than Ebola, on the other hand, it's on the money; Schumacher's (much-criticized, in some quarters) decision to go with a younger, more photogenic cast works fairly well, though the third side of the love triangle (Wilson) is all but sidelined, dramatically. While not as emotionally effective as the live version [which we saw last week, triggering the movie viewing], it remains very entertaining and makes good use of the benefits cinema can offer over stage. And - no small point - it's also about 1/10 of the cost of a theater ticket.

August 2006

I was hoping to get to use a caption like,
'The Phantom plays with his organ', but no such luck.
Here's a very nice picture of the chandelier instead.

Warbling time again
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