the phantom of the opera

trashing the phantom of the opera
schumacher’s folley

saw this last week. was texting diane (mod poink 123) and jm (epikunwari) and mike (checkeredegg) if they wanted to watch it with me one friday night (or was it a thursday). diane was off to baguio to do her thesis and jm was with a group date. mike and zee couldnt make it so it was gonna be just jetro (no cyber counterpart) and me.

spoiler alert. i will be nitpicking phantom here so if you havent seen it or dont want to read my review of a bad film, dont proceed hehehe

i had my reservations when i heard gerard butler’s voice in the trailer, he isnt musical theater material in the first place. i read he had a rock band background, but his voice, well, it seemed he was talking through his lines and you could only go so far as to doing this technique. and since some notes would need to be sustained for 4 bits or 16 bits, his droning becomes disturbing more than his character.

thankfully he was an actor enough to express all angst the phantom felt on the day they did not do all that the phantom asked of them. but what mainly got my goat with this film is schumacher. joel f*****’ schumacher. he is the curse of the phantom. no doubt about the set, which was fabulous, and the music of webber, a classic, the phantom of the opera was a ready hit for greatness on film. and then a director like schumacher comes in.

there are ways of course, on how to handle such a material and still make a killing at the mainstream movie box office. get good looking actors. schumacher got butler, who we saw as lara croft’s tomb raider boyfriend in the cradle of life and in crichton’s timeline. it however turned unfortunate that butler is too handsome to be terrifying or too young to be the phantom, i think. he lacked seniority and this particular dominating presence to overpower christine daae with his greatness at master class. on scenes when you should be enraptured not by all this mystery about the phantom but also the power of his singing performance, the actor doesnt soar. he however looks pathetic and comes out as some insane opera ghost, a fool roaming around the halls. and i dont blame butler for this, he was miscast.

another way to tackle this film is get a good-looking actor who could sing. emma rossum is beautiful and looks perfect as christine daae, angelic, sweet, innocent and likely to be victim to the angel of music’s hypnotic presence. and she can sing. unfortunately, she cant sing opera. and the role of christine requires you sing opera. it is amusingly irritating that after carlotta sings “think of me” christine replaces her with a below-standard rendition of the aria. an added blow yet, she sang it pop! in fact, there were a lot of singing that was made easy for her by singing in pop and the orchestra getting louder to drown out her sustained, unsustained notes, like her high c at the end of the song “the phantom of the opera.” again, another unfortunate casting. i was thinking they should have picked actors from broadway instead. and i hated when her notes is already sang out loud yet her mouth opens as if she was singing at a whisper! kainis. her face should have been distorted, with her mouth wide open and her veins sticking out, or at least like sarah brightman (who sang the original christine), her eyes would be wide open and you could see her brain from her esophagus. again i blame schumacher.

patrick wilson (playing the vicomte raoul de chagny) was a saving grace in the singing department. his performance in key songs like “all i ask of you” was more than welcome, to say the least. that would probably be all i can say about him. he was, btw, in angels in america. didnt know he could sing, and that was an interesting revelation.

schumacher directing the phantom of the opera is abysmal. choice of actors, treatment of the musical (pop singing in an opera?), acting direction (christine and her dazed, unaffected performance), blocking and staging (masquerade, point of no return, and wishing you were here again, among others, were sorely lacking of emotional and plot-driven direction), story development (schumacher too early revealed phantom’s itsura by putting too much light on him in the lair scene with christine) and so on and so forth.

so is it really that bad? not really. loved miranda richardson (as madam giry) and minnie driver (as carlotta) was great in the film. webber’s music is still magical, except that singing performances matter a big deal in musicals and we have substandard singers hitting his notes. didnt schumacher learn anything from the recent musicals that came out? chicago! moulin rouge! evita! aside from being good actors, everybody sang well and with so much emotion you cant help but cry.

dont get me wrong, i love the phantom of the opera. i havent seen the show onstage but i listened to the original london cast a whole lot and ive read the libretto. michael crawford, sarah brightman and michael ball. man, they were the best. and im not saying that because they were the original performers. like with les miserables, the singers change but the quality of the singing does not.

and comparing the works of past directors tackling a webber musical, alan parker and norman jewison did magnificently with evita and jesus christ superstar respectively. madonna may not be an actor but she outdid herself in evita, and her singing got a whole deal better. antonio banderas IS che. even if webber company released JCS 2000 i still loved jewison’s film version of jesus christ superstar. thing is, the singing was never compromised. they are musicals in the first place. and i cant help but compare POTO to evita especially. parker did such a great job with evita, the scope and grandeur of argentina, evita’s campaign for leadership and monopoly, historical facts and whatnot, they were all there. schumacher made crap of his film version. if he wanted great acting, he should have just gone to the real source and not based it from the musical. besides the acting wasnt even that good.

if baz lhurmann did the phantom of the opera, he might take it into a totally different direction but judging from his direction in strictly ballroom and his musical experience with moulin rouge, id think he’d do greatly with POTO. parker already done fame the film and evita. why didnt he just do phantom too? im griping and bitter. jhem (evil teleri) told me this has turned into another passion of the christ for me. i so wanted to love the film but it just left me frustrated and disappointed. i hope they dont compromise les miserables and miss saigon in the film versions. and rent should remain true to its spirit.


return to the point of no return

watching the phantom of the opera again

keep your hands at the level of your eyes
must be something in my head. although i hated the film i couldnt keep away from the music of webber so i coaxed faisal to meet up with me and watch the phantom last saturday. the 2nd time around it wasnt so bad. i got over how bad their singing were and just let the music and the book flow through.

but that still doesnt excuse schumacher. ha!

a lot of things were confirmed from the first time i saw the film, like indeed butler was too young (and apparently a lot of the reviews out on print followed this common perspective). the singers on the film are an acquired taste, and are hard to take in, but perhaps as it goes they grow on you. maybe after the 5th viewing i wouldnt mind much that this version is below standard. i also had an issue with the editing! how the film was cut totally prevented some scenes from soaring into nirvana. like when butler runs and starts singing “you will curse the day you did not do,” on the rooftop, among other things. the cut to the next shot was a bit late, so it stops you from going into a semblance of orgasm. in spite of butler’s singing that would have been a great scene if not for the editing. faisal also was not impressed by the film version, he being another connoisseur of musicals, classical or otherwise.

i forgot to mention in my first review that i was surprised webber acted as producer for this flick (and co-wrote the screenplay with schumacher). am i missing something here? maybe i just didnt get the grandiose setup of phantom of the opera the musical, as how he understood it or saw it in his mind. either that or webber is a lousy filmmaker.

was with astarte lorybeth and ronnie last sunday. the conversation during dinner was peppered with songs from phantom and angst from watching the film. loribeth claims she’d turn a better christine. astarte and i felt that the film could have been better. ronnie commented id enjoy pedro penduko more. and most likely i might.

even the trip to ncca intramuros and eventually malate last night was not saved from lamenting the doomed christine. drei (manofmars) enjoyed the film not as one, but more on its music (or that’s how i got it). his friend cedric also didnt like the film. jm (epikunwari) doesnt have plans to watch it so bully for you.

the second viewing of the phantom of the opera was nevertheless a more enjoyable experience. i was, in a way, over my disappointment and frustration. i came in the theater hoping to have a good time (and knowing that i know what will disappoint me i chose not to be distracted) and i did. funny that nearing the part that christine seeks out his father’s ghost and singing “wishing you were somehow here again,” i began to feel drowsy again. and so i noticed on both occasions when i watched the film i was beginning to doze off at the same part. i thought i was just tired during my first experience with the phantom but to have it happen to me twice!

what kind of dark, voodoo magic is the phantom weaving and casting on his audience?

minnie driver is still funny and miranda richardson demands your utmost respect, i love her cute french accent. the vicomte is still a sissy towards the end (i had the same reaction when i first heard the london cast recording), crying and singing out and being helpless and all.

surprisingly the “point of no return” was a rather powerful scene. i would have enjoyed it the first time if i didnt fall asleep. this time i was battling to keep awake, and i was successful half of the time. there was a particular intensity and a dark undercurrent of sensual power felt in the scene as christine and the phantom were battling their own erotic desires of belonging and submission. and i wished she didnt have to rip off his mask but just let the song go on and on past the point of no return.

in a way i cant hate musicals forever. in fact, there has never been one that i hated. that was why it surprised me why i reacted violently to the film. they still should have gotten actors from the stage. they should have gotten a musical director. wait, i meant a director adept at musicals. they should have gotten a different choreographer (masquerade was crap!). they should have built bigger sets. oh well. you cant have it all. not all can be a moulin rouge. or a west side story. and webber can apparently do a bad version of himself.

and what is it with keeping your hands at the level of your eyes? anybody, enlighten me please 🙂 cuzin ej? dianeski?

laundry therapy, movies

the punjab lasso

keeping your hands at the level of your eyes

i reread the libretto today and it explained why we keep our hands at the level of our eyes. thus reads:
GIRY: But remember: your hand at the level of your eyes!
RAOUL: but (hu-)why…?
GIRY: Why? The Punjab lasso, monsieur. First Buquet. Now Piangi.
MEG (holding up her hand): Like this, monsieur. I’ll come with you.
GIRY: No, Meg! No, you stay here!
(to Raoul): Come with me, monsieur. Hurry, or we shall be too late…

this part of the song wasnt included in the film thus a lot were confused, myself included, with the significance of the action. of course Buquet was talking about the magic lasso in the middle of the first act but that didnt explain much. in the stage version the lasso would magically suspend itself in mid-air (that’s how it caught raoul in the underground lair).

enough talk about lassos and opera ghosts.


today’s a day off thank God. it gave me the opportunity to do the rest of my laundry, which consists mostly of sheets and towels. now i can change my bedspreads and sleep on freshly washed cotton sheets. the beauty of washing machines and spin dryers. i bet you havent thanked God they were invented 🙂 it’s about time you do.