Director: Joel Schumacher
I was not expecting to like this. First, it’s a musical, and I’m really picky about my musicals (I abhor “talk-singing” and singing without a realistic reason). Second, it’s opera, and I’m not a fan of unintelligble lyrics and high-pitched warbling that’s supposed to be singing. Third, it’s nearly two and a half hours long, which sounded awful. Finally, though I’d never seen any version of Phantom and didn’t even know the story, I’ve seen enough parodies and derivative storylines that it seemed that I had. Well, I am pleased to report that despite all the above, I loved this film. Here is why. The first thing I liked was the modern direction. Joel did a great job of using modern techniques to enhance the story. For instance, the opening scene where the ancient, dust-ridden, falling apart opera house morphs into the colorful, grand Paris opera house of its prime is amazing. You really get a feeling for the building’s impressive architecture, history, and style that you wouldn’t otherwise. Next, though I did not like all of the music, and there were a few too many “talk-songs” (where people “sing” to tell you ordinary things as in “I’m walking along this corridor, heading to my bed after a long hard day of work, wondering what tomorrow will bring…”), I did like a fair number of the songs and several were quite excellent. The dramatic “phantom” organ music that plays whenever the phantom appears is really, really cool. Finally, the bare story was impressive and held a lot of emotion. It deals with a young girl, Christine, who lives at the opera house. For years she’s been talking music lessons from a mysterious, unknown voice which haunts the opera house: it’s the phantom. He’s fallen in love with her and slowly his malignant nature emerges as he sabotages the star singer and (eventually) kills to advance her career. She becomes an overnight sensation, but also finds a suitor, a young man she knew as a child who’s now a count. The Phantom, of course, is jealous, and thus the conflict is set. We feel for the poor Phantom, face disfigured and horribly mistreated as a child, who grew up alone in the vast underground recesses of the opera house, and who’s a musical genius, and yet we are repulsed by his violence and unforgiving nature. We want a happy ending but sense a tragedy in the making. It’s a dramatic and vivid story and the music enhances everything, heightening emotions, and helping us feel fear and love and chilling excitement. Impressive and well-done.