Thursday, May 18, 2017
Movie Review: The Phantom of the Opera (1990)
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Before Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote his own Phantom of the Opera, Arthur Kopit began writing a musical adaptation of Lerox's novel. It was not produced, but after the success of the Lloyd Webber show, Kopit's musical was translated into a two-part non-musical miniseries for television.
This, I must say, is the most beautiful adaptation of Phantom that I have ever seen. Of course the Webber musical will always have a special place in my heart, but this version has now become my favorite.
Vastly different from the book, this story paints a much more sympathetic portrait of Erik, who we see here as a sensitive, soft spoken, intelligent- if more than a little unbalanced- individual.
Christine, a young peasant girl, arrives at the Paris Opera House with a letter from the Comte d'Chagny, who was enchanted by her singing in a village festival and arranged for her to have singing lessons. Unfortunately for Christine, the Comte's friend Carriere, who used to be the manager, has recently been dismissed from his position and replaced by an Italian couple. The new managers wife, Carlotta, does not believe that Christine can sing and instead assigns her to the costuming department, leaving Christine with little hope of ever making it to the stage. This is a double blow for her, as she finds out that the Comte, with whom she was more than a little infatuated, has a reputation for being a womanizer, and she is not the first girl he has sent to the Opera House for lessons.
Meawhile, Carriere goes down below the theater to inform his long time friend, the Phantom, that he will no longer be able to help him since he has been dismissed. Incensed at the injustice done to his friend, Erik takes an immediate disliking to the new manager and Carlotta, and is faced with the problem of what he is going to do now that his only ally has been ousted.
But when he hears Christine singing after the theater closes, he knows he has found a new purpose, and immediately offers to become her teacher on the condition that she tell no-one. A relationship begins to blossom between them as he guides her, inspiring her with both skill and confidence so that she can someday take her rightful place on the stage.
But things begin to heat up when Phillipe d'Chagny finally arrives, truly and thoroughly smitten with the girl he sent for lessons, and determined to win her heart. Carlotta discovers how beautifully Christine can sing, her husband Choleti refuses to heed the Phantom's wishes concerning the Opera House, and the police begin combing the catacombs where Erik lives, searching for the body of one Mr. Joseph Bouquet...
I think the thing I loved most about this version was the characters. The story almost seems like a Gothic fairy tale. Christine is naive, innocent, and loving. Though she is very feminine and not afraid of it, she is not quite a damsel in distress either. Far less so than the Christine in the Webber version. Phillipe (the Raol-equivalent) is interesting due to his conflicting nature. On one hand he has his reputation as the pretty-boy womanizer, and on the other hand his love for Christine is pure and true, and he does his best to be worthy of her.
As for Erik, I loved that in this version he seemed more human. He was capable of carrying on a normal(ish) conversation with someone, and was not consumed with self-pity, which I found quite refreshing. His sense of humor made me laugh several times, and his tenderness toward Christine was very touching. And yet, for all those good qualities, you could just tell that his mind is not all there. Something is dreadfully broken in him, and one wrong blow could unleash a terrible threat.
His relationship with Carriere was refreshing as well. It was nice to see that his whole life did not always revolve around Christine. He had a friend, and a business to run as well before ever knowing she existed.
One thing I found very interesting is that you never actually see his face, which I think keeps the mystery intact. The viewer is left to imagine what could be so horrible, and is therefore not disappointed by something less than what they imagined.
PROS: Everything I just mentioned above. I can't get over how much I love this movie!
CONS: A few scattered swear-words, though not as much as movies nowadays.
One flashback in which you see a man and a woman lying in the grass together, and they do not appear to be fully clothed. Nothing shocking is seen, though the characters are unmarried.
**SPOILER** At one point we see a woman attempt what appears to be an abortion by drinking some sort of medicine, but she is stopped and she delivers the baby safely.**END SPOILER**
**SORTA-SPOILER** In the Phantom's lair we see a crib, in which a headless doll rests. The head of the doll is hung in front of a portrait of someone who appears to be Christine, and it is never made clear why this is. It seems very suggestive of magic of some sort, but it is not elaborated on and frankly I have no idea why they included it in the film, except perhaps to make it seem more 'eerie'.**END SPOILER**
Some minor violence (gunshots fired, a few people hung), but very very little blood.
OVERALL: If you like the Phantom of the Opera, watch this version! I can't find the official rating, but I would rate it a very light PG-13. In terms of quality, I give it a solid Five Stars!
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