"Time destroys everything."
Irréversible takes the reverse clockwork of Memento but plunges the concept into wild extremes. Irréversible is, at its beating black heart, a tale of revenge, but having the narrative go backwards in time allows both the violence that much more extreme and the loss unbelieveably real.
Irréversible starts off with the credits rolling in reverse and slightly off to the side. After a brief stop in someone’s bedroom, the next 15 minutes or so are purely visceral as the soundtrack consists of a low-bass hum and the camera swirls about a darkly lit alleyway and hovers over a man being carried to a waiting ambulance to both insults and police presence. There’s been a massive beating inside a gay Parisian S&M nightclub called the Rectum, leaving a man dead. We then step back in time into the dark club, catching brief glimpses of its clients, their activities and two men frantically searching for another over the dull pounding of the bass.
At this point, the action mirrors the soundtrack as the first horrific act happens as we witness the effects of a fire extinguisher against a man’s head. We now know how we’ve been brought into this state of removal, but we don’t know the cause. Desperate Markus (Vincent Cassel) and mostly reserved Pierre (Albert Dupontel) run through the streets with the assistance of a few others, before we step back to the turning point: when Markus sees the brutally beaten Alex, face disfigured, being wheeled into an ambulance. It’s only later (or earlier, following the proper chronological order) that as we follow an elegantly dressed woman as she leaves a party into an underground tunnel that we finally see Alex (the achingly hot Monica Bellucci) and how she meets her fate with a graphic nine minute sodomic rape.
Director Gaspar Noé takes a three page treatment and turns it into an intense ride through both hell and heaven. His use of long takes for each time jump makes it feel like a documentary that you want to run away from if your legs weren’t riveted. As we go back in time, the lighting and soundtrack become more clearer and less heavy, emphasizing the journey into evil more effectively than were it to go in order. The fact that you think Markus and Pierre are like buddy cops changes as we see what happens earlier and earlier in the night, where characters who appear helpful at the end only turn out to be worse than they seem and the people who seem distant were close once but now seemingly lost.
The house party where everyone else looks beautifully hazy in comparison, with the loose smiles and banging tunes (Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter provides the lofi soundtrack from the creepy to the euphoric) but the tension looms larger when we know what happens when (and why) Alex has to leave. The ride on the train becomes less innocent through the sexual riffing when it turns out that Markus and Pierre aren’t as close as first thought.
But the hardest devastation from Irréversible is saved for last as we watch Markus and Alex frolic undressed at home (the fact that Cassell and Bellucci are married in real life makes this scene look so relaxed), for we know that their tender moments are fleeting and there is no undoing what happens going forward. The daylight at this point chases away the muddy browns, bloody reds and plunging blacks and the music is ironically light. The supposed kicker at the end is a bit tossed off, but the final scene is disorienting as we spin around in bright green grass and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony floats through the speakers.
This movie won’t suit those who don’t have the tolerance to put up with the French sub-titles or the stomach to handle the extreme violence (or nudity, given the odd nature of today’s events), but Irréversible is worth a watch for those who want to see the power of storytelling, where the lifts and falls are painfully felt. I wish I could have seen this in the theatre, but thankfully someone loaned this to me on DVD.
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What the heck was that?
Following the final season of his television show, Jerry Seinfeld decided that he had to get back to doing what it was he was born to do. Unlike many comdian-come-celebrities, Jerry never professed to being an actor, nor even liking acting. His love is stand-up comedy, and like so many others, it’s a compulsion that cannot be avoided.
Not long after the last episode of “Seinfeld”, Jerry decided that his material - his routine which he spent 20 years honing - was played out. He presented the material once more on HBO’s “I’m Telling You For The Last Time” before burning it all and starting fresh. This is where Comedian comes in.
This documentary primarily follows Jerry starting in 2000 as he goes through the process of being, essentially, an amateur again (a well known amateur, but an amateur none-the-less). He’s got no well honed material to bolster the weaker items when he gets up on stage in front of a packed comedy club. It’s trial and error, and we get to see the successes, but also the many failures of someone who’s had it all and decided it was too much.
Simultaneously, we follow the carreer of Orny Adams, an ambitious and surly up-and-coming comedian. We watch as Orny gets angry, gets an agent, gets angry, gets into the Just For Laughs comedy festival, gets angry, gets tremendous amounts of praise, gets angry, and finally gets his big break on Letterman. Oh, and then he gets angry.
Throughout the documentary, one begins to notice the comraderie that Seinfeld has with other comedians, as Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, Gerry Shandling, Ray Romano, and even Bill Cosby (and more) all sit down with him as they converse about their craft.
Meanwhile, it seems Orny only spouts off at the camera, and occasionally his manager, George Shapiro. As one club owner says to him, he could go far if he just kept his mouth shut and let his act speak for him.
Jerry, one notices, is incredibly ernest, shaking hands with anyone who approaches him, and always saying “nice to meet you”. Adams, on the other hand, appears to loathe his audience, and generally seems unhappy.
Comedian is an intriguing look at the behind the scenes world of stand-up comedy, a business that appears to be ten times more frustrating than it is rewarding. Its a business whose currency isn’t money, no, success is measured in laughs.
The film itself is all shot on an over the shoulder camera, and is really rough and tumble, but to its benefit. The audio, for it’s unobtrusive nature, surprisingly captures all the conversations, though sometimes it’s hard to filter through the background noise.
And, while being funny, it’s more dramatic than anything.
The special features, on the other hand, are hilarious.
Starting firstly with the trailer, which is a complete disconnect from the film, it has to be seen, or at least heard, to be believed. I’d go out on a limb and say this is the funniest, if not the best trailer ever made.
The tv teasers are amusing, but not nearly as funny.
There are promotional photo stills of some damn funny posters, and Comedian gumball machine figures (!).
The routines Seinfeld and Adams did on the Letterman show are also included, as are deleted scenes.
The big prize, though, are two segments from “Prime Time Glick”, the faux talkshow featuring Martin Short in a fat suit as the scatalogical interviewer. One features Seinfeld, the other Adams, both overwhelmed by Short’s mania.
There’s commentary by director Christian Charles and producer Gary Streiner, which isn’t incredibly useful but provides a bit of outsider observation on the stand-up scene.
And finally there’s a segment called “Where’s Orny Now”, in which, two years after the conclusion of the film we see that Orny’s now living in Los Angeles (from New York), he had a development deal with NBC which turned sour, and he’s realized that stand-up comedy is where his passion is. Having achieved his ambition then realizing it wasn’t what he wanted, Adams finally seems content, making this little bonus feature the biggest pay-off for the film.
A good film with great bonus material.
Finally, somebody gets it right.
After sitting through dramatic sci-fi like Event Horizon, Mission to Mars, Sphere, Red Planet, Contact and countless others that start off with a good premise, but always drop the ball in the final act, finally someone’s gotten it right.
And it’s no surprise (okay, well, maybe it is) that it’s Steven Soderbergh that pulls it off.
Both directing and writing the screenplay (based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem), Soderbergh’s Solaris weaves together a film that runs as much on visceral emotion as it does on plot. There’s no easy answers by the end, and there’s no disappointing reveals, no cheesy CGI aliens and no big action sequences. Soderbergh keeps this on a completely guttural level.
The premise seem simple but the idea winds up being incredibly complex, especially given the information in the film. Solaris is a living planet, a mystery that, in the future, scientists are eager to explore, and hopefully, exploit. But, the first mission to Solaris is troubled, and there’s been little or no contact between Earth and the space station there. An emergency squad was sent out and never heard from again.
A communication comes to Earth from the captain of the crew, directed to his friend, psychologist Chris Kelvin (George Clooney). In the message, the captain says the missionaries all feel trapped on board the station orbiting Solaris, and yet they aren’t being held captive. They’re free to leave, but nobody wants to. Madness has set in and the captain seems to think Kelvin is their only hope. The powers that be have no choice but to agree.
Kelvin, years separated from the suicide of his wife, Rea (Natascha McElhone), is still haunted by her death. Arriving on the Solaris station, with only two crew member alive, both of them neurotic and paranoid, it becomes evident that something is very wrong. Kelvin’s friend, the captain, is dead. Dried blood stains are prevalant around the station, and a small child is occasionally seen running around the station.
His first ‘night’ there Kelvin sleeps with the doors locked, and he dreams about his wife. When he awakes, she is with him. This is as it was explained to him, visitors from their life who shouldn’t be there, acting exactly as they remember them, self aware, but not human.
So traumatized by the sudden and unnatural appearance, Kelvin lures the duplicate into an escape pod and sends her off. But his desire for her only brings another one on board. Kelvin, longing too much for Rea’s presence, cannot bear to let go of her, even if she is a copy. And philosophically, is it possible that it really is her? Belief systems, spirituality and sanity are all questioned, and the answers really depend on your own perspective.
warning: it’s hard for me to be objective about this review, because i have been waiting for a desperate amount of time for something like this to be released, so forgive any freakouts this review may have. that said….
1989: the year i entered high school, with the drama of going to a different high school than the rest of my elementary school classmates. coming from a smaller school and expecting to go to a smaller high school, i ended up going to one of the largest secondary schools in town. there were a lot more people around than i was used to, i had to take a school bus for the first time and the only people i knew there were loose acquaintances at best and ended up in a different stream. effectively, i was alone and i felt like a misfit in a world that had various strange codes of its own.
fortunately, this was the same year when the kids in the hall first aired and i somehow discovering the show on the dial (back when tv’s had dials) during one of the futile attempts of channel surfing through the only four non-cable channels available to me (one of which was purely french and one which was part-time french). the kids in the hall introduced me into the world of sketch-based comedy, which i was completely unfamiliar with. the kids were five guys who were definitely canadian, mostly suburban with a mix of urban and rural, exploring the real world as though it were an alien planet. they were trying to point out how life seemed to work and what was funny about it. and they played whatever roles they could, donning wigs and dresses to act out as women. to me, it was a beacon of hope; it confirmed that the world doesn’t make sense most of the time and bad things happen, but if you look at it a certain way, it could be hilarious even at life’s worst.
and i was hooked. over the span of five seasons, i went out of my way to battle the channel’s tendency to hop when the show would air and catch up on dave, bruce, kevin, mark and scott. i was introduced to the music of shadowy men on a shadowy planet, which in turn guided me into the world of non-top 40 radio (i.e. real alternative music) and parts of the canadian underground. their questions against the social boundaries by tackling then-taboo topics such as AIDS, homosexuality, death, the macabre, drugs and deviant behaviour felt risky to someone who had no idea about such things and forced me to evaluate what my thoughts would be on those topics. the characters became a virtual family to me, the writing made me think how to tell a story and the timing the troupe had in front of the camera soaked into my awkward skin and made me realize how people interacted and talked with each other. and oddly enough, i became comfortable in that skin and managed to be a part of the world i couldn’t understand before (not that i still do, but that’s the biggest lesson of all).
after the show was over after five seasons (i took that news pretty bad), i became dependent upon repeats of the show, which didn’t quite materialize until one of the big cable channel booms in the late 1990s. the only episodes you could purchase were best-of compilations from the later seasons. as a stubborn fan, the only way i could be placated was by a complete season set, like i had started to see for shows like monty python. especially the early seasons, which appeared to have fallen into a memory hole.
so when word came in that the kids in the hall would finally be released to the home market, i was ecstatic. one of the producers set up a forum to discuss a possible DVD release and i offered my two cents on what i wanted to see. i had no idea that in a few short months, the complete season one set could be purchased online in a single DVD set.
and even with my mixed modest/wildest expectations, the season one set is gold. it’s justified my entire DVD life.
the idea of a television show featuring anthropomorphic fast food raises one big flag. how can anyone pull off 11 minutes of watching a milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball hang around? where do they come from? what do they do?
fortunately, this ain’t no mcdonaldland or veggietales, as the aqua teen hunger force knocks out some of the most surreal, most rude and most funny television out. as one small chunk of the best hour of tv, adult swim, aqua teen hunger force is a short cartoon that focuses in one of the backwater parts of suburban new jersey, where three food products live and encounter the strangest members of the universe, which usually ends with massive amount of property destruction.
master shake is the leader of the trio, although he has no discernable leadership skills. rather, he is an asshole, one of the best asshole characters ever created. he’s self-serving and lazy, looking to either get real paid or berate anyone who can’t help his ambitions (namely, everyone around him). frylock is a mystical floating box of french fries, who has a brilliant scientific mind and immense superpowers. in any other situation, he could probably save the world on his own, but in the hunger force, he’s the ignore voice of reason, more than willing to work things out himself or otherwise push responsibility on those who do wrong. lastly, there’s meatwad, who’s the heart of the ground, with simple mind, simple pleasures and not much else. his two strengths are limited shapeshifting and naïveté, although he will (eventually) find out if he’s being hoodwinked.
every show starts off randomly with dr. weird and steve, two members of a south jersey shore facility that always experiment with some new creation or creature, which eventually goes hilariously wrong and cutting immediately into the main titles with hip hop’s schoolly d. we end up with the aqua teens, who are either in the house or by their long-suffering neighbour (and funniest character) carl’s outdoor pool, at which point trouble usually finds them. be they escapee’s from dr. weird, creatures from outer space or strange housemates, the aqua teens always have to deal with them if they can’t avoid them.
the stars were perfectly aligned for london in 1969, where style, sex and swagger provided a zest for life that was sorely missing elsewhere in the world at the time. paris was in protest, prague had fallen and race riots throughout the states all had the struggle whilst by all apperances, britain was fighting the cold war with a heady dose of culture. like all good things, the party was over once the seventies came along, but what a legacy was left.
the italian job (the original, not the 2003 remake, which i’ll ignore for now) pulls all the stops out as an over-the-top tale about how the various british classes unite to pull off a gold heist on a deal made between italy and china, demonstrating some of the first evidence of british euroscepticism to then new common market. naturally, in britain, the italian job has been a cult favourite from almost upon its release.
the story pivots around charlie croker, played by the iconic michael caine with delirious gusto. not five minutes out of prison is he already in a stolen car and willingly pulled into a scheme left by his recently murdered associate. the plan is partially discovered by the italian mafia and involves throwing the city of torino in a massive traffic jam.
in 2001, bmw did a little experiment: instead of regular adverts, it would hire top movie talent to produce several short films starring their production line. placed into the hands of executive producer (and director phenom) david fincher, the hire resulted in five short films were made and a viral marketing campaign spread them as trailers, short tv spots and online. those who found them were hooked, and in 2002, three more were made (which were executively produced by ridley scott then).
now, through bmw films, you can order a dvd with all eight movies for free (you pay for the shipping) (or you can get a copy when you buy a BMW for those of you with looser pursestrings) (or you can download them if you don’t pay a thing). all these movies feature a plot involving a BMW vehicle (the 2002 use the Z4 exclusively) and a nameless driver (the stalwart clive owen).
here’s a quick runthrough on all eight:
n.b.: the dvd puts season 2 first, but i’ll go in the order in which they were first released.
It wasn’t my choice, it wasn’t my girlfriend’s choice. It wasn’t my dad or my mom’s choice, nor my Grandma or my cousin, nor my uncle nor my auntie… it was my sister (and my other auntie) who thrust this comic foible of a chick flick upon us.
Sure it had it’s moments, it’s endearing and it’s stupid haha moments, but jesus, this wasn’t my choice for film night and I’m none the richer for it (although hearing my Gran repeatedly say that Ashton Kutcher would make a good looking woman never got tired).
I was actually a little surprised by the film, which wasn’t a 100% dumb low-brow comedy like the adverts make it out to be. In fact very little of this is dumb low-brow comedy. It’s got some out of place slapstick, and surprisingly some good performances by both leads… but that doesn’t make it a good film.
It’s a chick flick… compare to the 80’s John Hughes wanna-be romantic comedies… it fits right in the pack there beside Can’t Buy Me Love and Blind Date. It’s primed and ready for TBS Superstation with nary a swear in sight either (though there’s lots of sexual suggestion).
Overall, not as bad as I thought, though not something I wish to repeat.
The last Kids in the Hall DVD, Same Guys, Different Dresses was an intriguing and insightful romp behind the scenes of the KITH reunion tour that took place in 2000, reuniting the hollywood bound (solo, mind you) troop of Dave Foley (Newsradio, Blast From the Past), Bruce McCulloch (director of Superstar and Stealing Harvard), Kevin McDonald (Lilo and Stitch, Ladies Man), Mark McKinney (Out-of-Towners, New Waterford Girl), and Scott Thompson (Providence, The Larry Sanders Show). Same Guys showed that not only were the kids talented writers and performers, but also just genuinely funny and intriguing to watch people.
So, if that was the case, why did their 2002 Tour of Duty seem to fall so flat, and the DVD recording of the Vancouver performace just as thin. Is it seeing the Kids look so not like the kids they used to be, wrinkles and beer bellies and all? Or is it the fact that the tour was like Python’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl, a funny yet somewhat tired rehashing of classic material known by wrote of anyone who might care, with the odd smattering of some new stuff just to say that they’re still relevant as artists? Is it that the rehashed sketches lose something without the sets they were originally performed on? Or is it just that a video can never capture the live experience?
Really, it’s all of the above.
I saw Tour of Duty at the Canon Theatre in Toronto, and I can recall feeling the same sense of disappointment with the live show. Sure I laughed, and I laughed at the video too… I laughed because it’s funny. But also I laughed, quite often, before the jokes, because I knew what was already going to happen, and really it’s a hollow laughture, that. There’s the odd moment of diversion, of improve, of tweaking - little surprises that make you laugh, if only because it’s new. But surprises aren’t really much to hang 100minutes on. Unlike Same Guys we don’t get that behind the scenes (well, you get a bit, with the special features on the dvd, but in general it’s not there), the quirky interplay between the gang is quite minimal on stage for the sake of performance (with odd exceptions like Kevin’s Simon Milligan grabbing Dave Foley as Hecubus’ crotch in the ’sleep of ages’), and there’s no robotic dogs.
What’s positive of the video capture of this live show is the fun the group still has performing together, the brilliance of Bruce McCulloch’s spoken-word performances, the ease of which Scott Thompson can slip into his Buddy role, and the genious that is Kevin McDonald screaming. The worst aspect of this tour was the hackneyed manner in which the sketches ended, just dropping off as the music queued, and it made me wonder if that’s how the sketches actually ended on the show, only their bluntness lessened by the savvy Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, who are sorely missed from the KITH tours. But, mostly, it’s a tepid reminder of the fact that the sketches the troop is performing are as yet unavailable on DVD, the sketches as performed back when they were fresh, and their performers fresh-faced, and Tour Of Duty is like a slap in the face, a “this is all you get” instead of being the logical “years later” companion like Hollywood Bowl.
The DVD features are slim but fun, and the camerawork and transfer are, well, shoddy at times, but overall, it relates the atmosphere of live performance well, and it does gather some truly special moments, making worthwhile viewing, but for the die-hard fan only.
I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it: Christopher Walken is the man, the dude, the guy… and in King of New York, that’s the literal sense of it. In this film, Chris Walken is king.
Just released from prison, Frank White, a once powerful drug lord seeks not only to reclaim his status in the eschelon but sit at the top of the heap. “if a nickle bag is sold in the park, I want a cut.”
While obviously ruthless, Frank’s generosity with thugs and subservients inspire fanatical devotion (some hoods threaten him and his woman on the subway, Frank shows his piece, they drop the purse, he tosses them a thick wad of cash and says “if you’re looking for work, come to the Plaza lobby, ask for Frank White”, and if you pay attention, they’re in later scenes), and Frank’s encarceration has made him realize that he needs to do something good, which, to him means becoming top of the food chain to fund a threatened hospital).
Meanwhile there are police dissuaded at how the legal system really works, and decide that to take Frank down, they need to do it their own way. War wages between rival cartels and between Frank and the police. It all gets rather violent, and yet there’s something subdued about the whole thing.
Credit Abel Ferrara, who has timing and style down pat, this guy knows his way around a scene. While his story may be of want of a few things (a little more clarity in some of the roles people play), his visuals certainly aren’t. His action scenes are quite gripping, where everything is shot with a clear steady lense, something most of todays action scenes loaded with cgi have trouble doing.
Walken is a treat in this movie. Trademark dancing scenes naturally find their way in, and the chemistry between him and Lawrence Fishborne is perfect (a feeling of both sibling and paternal relationships emerging). David Caruso even has a good turn as a cop gone rogue and pays dearly. Wesley Snipes emerges and has some great scenes with Fishborne.
It’s not a perfect movie by any means, but it has an engaging story, terriffic acting, and some truly unique elements. The lack of clarity sometimes making the movie so much better than if it was all spelled out for you.
Blade II is more ballet than Shakespeare, and more WWE than ballet. But unlike professional wrestling, Blade II is crafted with skill, art, and tremendous talent.
Director Guillermo Del Toro mentions more than once throughout his very engaging, often hilarious commentary that the first Blade was the set up, so all the character stuff is out of the way. Blade II, in its turn, is pure fun.
Sure, he says, to look at it logically it’s complete bullshit, but it’s not supposed to be a logical movie, it’s supposed to be two hours of blood and fists entertainment, which is exactly what it is.
In Blade one it was established that there was an underground society of vampires, intermingling with the real world, almost like its own company or country with its own internal politics. It was established that there was a new rung on the food chain ladder, and that vampires were the top game. Except for Blade, who was partially turned while in the womb. He has all the strengths of a vampire, but none of the weaknesses save bloodlust.
Blade II turns even that notion on its head. There’s a new strain of vampires, , the Reapers, more primal, more viscious, more powerful, and they feed on other vampires and humans alike.
The reapers have their own secret, which isn’t very complex, but best left to the film (the plot is so slim, best leave it to be discovered). But in finding this secret, Blade teams up with an elite team of vampire warriors, the Bloodpack and hunt down and destroy the Reapers before their plagued blood spreads further.
And that’s basically it. At the beginning Blade finds the “thought dead” Whistler alive (surprise, surprise) and thankfully not a vampire. Blade alsor has a romantic interest in one of the Bloodpack, but really, it’s all a simple tinker-toy construct upon which a dozen incredible action sequences hinge.
Really, it’s all about the crash, bang, pow… but it’s really cool crash, bang, pow. The behind the scenes featurettes on the two -disc set provide some insight into the process of creating a lot of the gore and grappling, and Del Toro in his commentary tells how using animatics and cg interchangably really helped the film (once you cannot tell which is which, that is the point where you start believing).
The Del Toro commetary is one of two on the disc, the other star Wesley Snipes and writer/producer David Goyer chime in. But really Del Toro steals the disk with his charming spanish accent, his razor sharp wit, and his passion for the work he does, all of it. Referenced in the commentary (as well as the 80 minute documentary) frequently are his past works (Kronos, Mimic, and Devil’s Backbone) and how he advanced as a director because of them. Listening to Del Toro speak, one gleans insight into the process of making a comic book movie proper. You begin to understand why so many others have failed and yet he got it so right. His knowledge of comics, art, and cinema collide to produce a fantastic looking film, and a supremely enjoyable live-action comic.
once in every lifetime comes a show that prides itself with pure unmitigated chaos. unafraid to change the channel itself and change the entire plot at a given moment. not safe television but extremely silly to the point that of rupture.
the young ones was a short 2 season sitcom that aired on the bbc back in 1982 and 1984. standard run for british viewing with shorter seasons emphasizing writing more than stardom. however, in 12 episodes, you watch as 4 students live in a university flat encounter virtually everything. picture a punk slightly more situational monty python where not only anything that can be done for a laugh will be done, but anything that can be done to completely throw logic and reason out the door will be done as well. for a strange budgetary reason, the cost of the show could increase if they included a musical act, so during the middle of a story, a musical act of the time would appear from nowhere, play their song and disappear. include puppetry, time travel, portals to strange places, complete havoc and destruction and you have an "anything goes" demeanour.
the 2nd season definitely is the stronger of the two seasons, partly due to getting more into the rhythm of the style but also because they triple the amount of references that transpire, making a half-hour show seem longer but in a good way. any abuse towards each other is more intense, the storylines fly more randomly and the interactivity with the 4 along with their strange environment is more fluid. the fact that they’re so utterly hopeless with themselves, let alone the peculiar asides, makes this consistently hilarious; it’s as though that even if they were permitted to have a clue what was going on, they still wouldn’t be able to handle themselves any better.
the picture and sound quality is impeccable for such a cheap show and the aid of sub-titles is a bonus not only for those who may experience difficulty with the various britishisms at play (or rick’s wascally wabbit talk. –gak) but for those who may want to quote their antics verbatim. a 3rd dvd includes some behind the scene shenangins along with the casting and writing process.
way to go, scumbag college!
“All articles that are excluded shall be deemed included…”
Would you sign a contract that stated that??
Premiering a year before The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and just after Tommy came off the stage, The Phantom of the Paradise is a rock opera farce that completely paved the way for RHPS, Hedwig, Moulan Rouge, and all others that would follow.
The story of Phantom is a mash of both the tales of Faustus and the Phantom of the Opera, and surprisingly it comes off well, bringing both tales into a modern setting, namely the recording studio and the opening of a new rock-club called (ahem) the Paradise.
Served with a high kitsch value (as nearly every good post-60’s musical has been), mixing it up with some amazingly catchy psych-pop tunes (created courtesy of the film’s star, Paul Williams), and some creepy, perhaps frightening, visual imagery, director Brian DePalma virtually defined himself with this film… which, unfortunately, has been almost completely lost of the collective conscious of society (most likely due to the RHPS’s overwhelmingly huge cult status the year following, but I’m willing to wager that Phantom is a better film, if not quite as fun).
Sure, the acting borders between camp and melodramatic, but that’s part of the fun. The direction, the oddball pacing, and the cinematography, complete with the trademark DePalma screen splits, is really what holds your attention. Rife with humour, song, and murder, it’s as extrinsically enjoyable as Psychoclahoma.
Highlights include the most embarassing dance sequence ever caught on film as Jessica Harper belts out a beatiful tune, Gerrit Graham as the dual-mode, butch/foppish rock god Beef, and, honestly, some truly great music.
While it has aged, it’s aged well, a monument of rock-and-roll excesses from the early 70’s, replete with shag carpets and fireworks, the way any good musical would be.