Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Phantom of the Opera

Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation. Darkness stirs and wakes imagination.

The Phantom of the Opera on the screen is another twist on the dark fable of a misshapen and deranged spirit who terrorizes the opera company for the benefit of his protege’. It’s not the stage version, thankfully, but a broader stroke of the cinematic pen. Joel Schumacher has created a very special world, a world where an ingenue can step into the spotlight upon a moment’s notice, but also where demons watch and wait for their chance to remove the light forever, all in L’Opera in Paris. And in the bowels underneath.

Schumacher and Andrew Lloyd Webber made a wise choice in selecting an actor for the lead role rather than a singer. The singer in the musical is usually too pretty, too, pardon the term, effiminate to cast a dark shadow on the Opera House and make us fear his wrath. Gerard Butler is a decent enough singer, but also gives us a ferocious Phantom. We believe he will make life miserable for the opera participants if his demands aren’t met. He's a sexy but dangerous denizen of the Opera, extremely watchable in the title role.

A true delight is the discovery of Emmy Rossum, who was, I believe, a mere 16 when this movie was filmed. She uses her own, pure voice (whereas, in contrast, Minnie Driver as diva Carlotta has a voice stand-in), such magic that could make us believe that a man might give up everything to see her aspirations assured.

The sets and costumes are superb. The masked ball is exquisite. The movie itself is a visual feast. The technique of explaining what happens 50 years after the events we watch is a bit wasted but still satisfying. The only criticism I have of the movie is that some of the shots are too short -- e.g., the rose falling in the snow, yet you hardly see it drop from her hand -- and a very slow period in the middle of the film. I knew the play had to be 3 hours long, but the movie doesn’t need to be.

The music is a revelation, and this movie presents it to us in an incredible buffet of delights. Thumb’s up.


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