For all the fond regard trickled its way, Brian De Palma’s ‘Phantom of the Paradise’, a garish satire on how corporations make anything real into a blister packed mockery of its former self, and a gloriously lurid ‘Faust’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ takedown doesn’t get the treatment it deserves. Except in France. The French will take a cinematic ugly duckling close to their chest, and thanks to licensing and an effort to recruit swanarchives.org – arguably one of the best movie fansites online, Opening’s new hi-def print of the film, an ‘Ultimate Edition’ has made it to Blu-ray. While in the UK and US we’ve had to make do with a bare-bones budget digital travesty, complete with some phony trailer for the film, this is actually the second French all-singing and all-dancing (but still no angry De Palma commentary) version our Gallic friends have had a few years back the Hollywood Classic Limited version did the movie proud, and while some films don’t necessitate a mark-free transfer, this most certainly does.
The audio is stunning, and those visuals are as eye-bleeding and faintly disturbing as ever. The outfits and production design are still some coked-out madness, and if any film benefited from being given a full yayo-mirror shine, this is it. Respect to the French fanboys and cinephiles who saw beyond the flop reception in 1974, gave it an award at the Festival du film Fantastique and pushed for this release. All other film going nations should hang their heads in shame. Bar a new introduction from Gerrit Graham the extras here remain the same as the Hollywood Classic version, but the quality here could put your hair back like the Maxell ads of old. ‘Somebody Super Like You’ never sounded so good. The beauty of ‘Phantom…’ is that with that disturbing, experimental camp, it could’ve attracted legions of dress-up midnight movie imbeciles, yet, like ‘After Hours’ or ‘Sorcerer’ you still feel a curious kinship with fellow fans that hasn’t been wrecked by ironists.If you like this film, you’re alright with me. If you don’t, fuck you…fous le camp.
An early example of Brian doing true spectacle, he remains a phenomenally underrated director, deserving of more than lazy Hitchcock-lite allegations. Master of set pieces (exploding Cassavetes being a personal favourite) the whole of this film feels like one long giddying set piece, and a pretty on-point tear up of the music industry of the ’70s. Beyond that, and far beyond the fantastical then-contemporary fable status, the notion of master douchebag Swan pilfering ideas from unknowns and leaving them to get crushed by the scene’s machinations, is a fair enough fable for the fashion/blog…whatever scene you might reside in. There’s a prick magpie picking ideas at the top of every tree. That remains relevant.
The ‘Paradise Regained’ documentary, included here, is a good insight into the whole ‘Phantom…’ saga. The promo materials from Richard Corben and Neal Adams are further evidence that even the best artists on the promo tip can’t save your flick from bricking. Once again, go check the Swan Archives again – they’ve got their own out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage – they’ve even got details on the unreleased ‘Death Records’ cushion from Medicom.
‘Phantom of the Paradise’s enduring appeal across the pond seems to be one of the pop cultural DNA strands that formed the generation of overachieving hipsters France produced. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel are superfans of the film, bonding over a shared love and repeat viewings – those Hedi Slimane suits were straight-up Phantom attire. Justice’s ‘Phantom’ might have reused Goblin’s ‘Tenebrae’ soundtrack, but was there some link between that, and another Goblin-scored Argento film, ‘Suspiria’ that also starred the beautiful Jessica Harper, ‘Phantom’s female lead and muse, Phoenix who inadvertently instigates mayhem? In fact, are the group Phoenix named after Harper’s character too? Sebastien Tellier’s ‘Sexuality’ album contained a tribute to the film’s soundtrack on ‘Divine’ and there’s some Swan stances in Bob Sinclar’s ‘I Feel For You’ video. There’s more examples of homages out their too – but this film seemed to strike a chord with France’s creative community at child-age. Go buy this disc.
And seeing as it was mentioned earlier, Josh Olsen talking over the equally misunderstood ‘Sorcerer’s trailer on Trailers From Hell late last week was a treat too. Josh knows.