litharriel: (Default)
[personal profile] litharriel

So I was listening to this, today, and it always makes me think of the Phantom of the Opera. (I will admit, I’m a little bit of a Phan.) He’s really quite a fascinating character, if you look at the book (or books, if you count Susan Kay’s novel as part of the canon, which many fans do). He is an inventor, an engineer, an architect, a magician, a musical genius both as performer and composer, who has served royalty. He has traveled the world. He is also a prolific murderer who has ultimately been driven mad by the cruelty he found there, because of his equally remarkable physical ugliness. It is only after living a full and eventful life that he retreats to his subterranean “house by the lake.”

Thinking of all this, I always wind up thinking of the movies made about him, and it strikes me as rather sad that the only one that really comes close to capturing the character--this musical genius--in his full scope is the silent film starring Lon Chaney.

Now, mind you, I’m not a purist. The other versions of the tale that have been committed to film all have something to be recommended, and I own a few of them. However, I always find it a bit frustrating that none of the other films get his backstory right, when really his backstory is what ultimately makes him the fascinating character that he is.

In the 1943 film, starring Claude Rains, the Phantom is a poor, middle-aged violinist, at the end of his rope. He writes one good song, and when he attacks the publisher who tries to steal it from him, his face gets burned by acid and he flees to the sewers and dungeons under the Opera. (I will, however, say for it that Claude Rains’ performance is marvelous, and at least they get the general area of the character’s age right.)

In the 1982 film, starring Robert Englund, the Phantom is a psychotic composer who made a deal with the devil. While I applaud this film for being the only one that doesn’t try to declaw the Phantom, that gives him a dark and epic past if not the canon one, and does contain some of my favorite film!Phantom moments, it degenerates into horror movie schlock at the end.

The 1990 mini series starring Charles Dance is endearing and funny, and makes extensive use of actual opera, but again it robs him of backstory in that he is actually raised under the opera house and is thus essentially innocent until the events of the story. Also, they seem to have entirely forgotten that he wasn’t only a lover of music, but a composer in his own right.

The 2004 film based on the stage production has some lovely visuals and a few good performances, but the Phantom is pulled underground as a child by a sympathetic young!Madame Giry. Apart from this, it is the film with the second-prettiest Phantom, delivering us Gerard Butler with a really bad sunburn on half his face (second only to Julian Sands, in the Argento version, whose main difference from the rest of the human race is an eccentric affection for rats).



As an aside, I’ve said this before, but listen, folks, this is what the Phantom of the Opera is supposed to look like.


Long story short, while this tale has stood the test of time for a full century, inspired many enjoyable films, and even a spin-off novel or two worth reading, I would like to see one well-done, modern film which captures this character in his full scope with all of the genius and horror and heartbreak that birthed the Phantom Phenomenon.

Y’hear me, Santa? Just one.

Date: 2011-12-16 06:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You sum up the films so well. But may I add that in a filmed version of the stage production, we might want a phantom who has a good voice? Gerard Butler can sing, but not without resorting to shouting in place of high notes and turning his low notes to gravel. I wasn't that impressed with Emmy Rossum, either. Her voice is quite beautiful, but it lacks power.

That film mystified me, because it declawed a stage play that already had mass appeal. No one's likely to film this musical again soon, but I'd like to see one that at least stays true to Lloyd Webber.

Date: 2011-12-18 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have to agree on Butler's singing voice. While it's not entirely disagreeable, the Phantom's voice is supposed to be the thing that enchants Christine with its inhuman beauty. His voice didn't tow that line, for me.

I haven't actually gotten to watch a live performance of the stage play, yet, but it's certainly top of the list of ones I want to see, and I definitely wouldn't mind seeing a better film of it!

Date: 2011-12-18 02:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I feel that way about Dracula. So many attempts. None of them actually properly translate the novel.

Date: 2011-12-18 04:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm somewhat ashamed to say I haven't yet gotten around to reading the original novel. >_< But it doesn't surprise me that the movies haven't lived up to the book. So few do. :-/

Date: 2011-12-19 05:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The book is fascinating. It has all this complicated subtext about class, nationality, and gender. It's quite subversive, really. I don't expect a movie to have that sort ofnuiance, but just once, I'd like tone, subtext, characters, and at least most of the plot all in one movie.

Instead you get things like the Langella Dracula catching some of the tone and subtext, but throwing out plot, characters, and basic rules about how the book Dracula works. (There's is edwardian rather than late Victorian, but it works). Meanwhile, the so called "Bram stoker's Dracula" looks to have been made from an outline an intern made from the cliff notes. It follows the plot, but the only person involved n the production who seems to have read the book and have any clue as to what his character was meant to be like is Mr, hopkins. The poor man tries so hard with that mangled dialog, it's heartbreaking. Also, whoever did the costumes knows nothing about period clothing. *shudder*

These two examples are the extremes; there are a lot examples that lie between them on a continuum, but no one has ever really tried to unit text and subtext with a Guy Ritchie/Peter Jackson attention to feel and detail in things like sets and costuming. I would love to see either one of them try it, though I expect the results would be wildly different.

Date: 2011-12-24 05:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It doesn't surprise me that Hopkins was the only one. He's one of my favorite actors.

I agree, though, that seeing a Dracula made from either of those directors would be marvelous.

Date: 2011-12-24 07:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have huge respect for Sir Anthony Hopkins.


litharriel: (Default)

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