Phantom of the Paradise Feb 13, 2020 22:00:07 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Feb 13, 2020 22:00:07 GMT -5
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Winslow Leach (William Finley) becomes "The Phantom" after a freak accident in Phantom of the Paradise.
NOTE: This film was recommended to me by Bethany R. for "Steve Pulaski Sees It," a yearly event where I take recommendations from readers.
Predating a relentless onslaught of wickedly entertaining midnight movies — even The Rocky Horror Picture Show by roughly ten months — Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise seems tailor-made for a crowd that enjoys flamboyant costumes, loud music, and nights they can barely recall. A tried and true rock musical, precisely the kind they don't care to write nor produce anymore, it's a highly enjoyable, deceptively intelligent montage of camaraderie.
The film revolves around Winslow Leach, played by William Finley, a college friend of De Palma's, who has written an enormous catalog of Faust-inspired songs and compositions. His music gets noticed and subsequently stolen by a Phil Spector-like record producer known as Swan (Paul Williams), whose powers are so great and influence so vast that he, on any given day, has a litany of young women giddily submit to his every wishes in hopes of being good enough to star in one of his productions. The head of Death Records, Swan is opening up a new concert venue known as "The Paradise," and believes Winslow's music will be the conduit to christen the new arena.
In a manic fit of rage, Winslow's face is left disfigured by a mishap with a record press (in a stark, unnerving sequence). To exact revenge on Swan, Winslow decides to don a cape and owl mask and take shelter in the Paradise while setting into a motion a series of unfortunate "accidents" that he hopes will make his point clear to the fiendish producer. In the midst of all this is Phoenix (Jessica Harper), an aspiring singer Winslow initially met while trying to call Swan out on his theft. Even though their initial interaction was brief, he felt that Phoenix would be the perfect person to perform his compositions, giving his mission of destroying Swan's brainchild some credence, especially after discovering the kind of blood sacrifice Swan makes his closest muses perform in order to get to the top.
If De Palma and cinematographer Larry Pizer's grungy aesthetic doesn't tie the project together and make this film an anarchic rebellion towards convention, it's the music that does. The opening scene shows a 50s-pop group known as "The Juicy Fruits" — who, collectively, sound like a sonic amalgam of The Four Seasons' harmony over a groove similar to Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" — belt out a satisfying ballad, with delightful originals by Winslow and Phoenix popping up as cheerful asides in a film that could've been bleak and rendered audiences apathetic to the plight of its lead. It's hard to believe De Palma, who would go on to direct beloved genre staples such as Carrie and Scarface, would be behind such madness, but his intellectual touch is noted by inclusions of Faustian themes of art and the price attached to it with temptation at a threat to consume its primary trio.
Phantom of the Paradise is a real delight. The kind of film made by a filmmaker with ostensibly nothing to lose and everything to gain by making something so bold that it begs to be seen twice. I'll do my due-diligence in time.
Starring: William Finley, Paul Williams, and Jessica Harper. Directed by: Brian De Palma.