Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Phantom of The Opera (1990)

This version of Phantom of The Opera is made for TV, divided into 2 parts, and based on a musical by Arthur Kopit. Kopit's work is of course based on the famous Gaston Leroux novel, about an opera ghost who falls in love with a singer.

I first saw this on TV in the 90's, around the time when Twin Peaks was shown on TV. We had black and white TV at that time, but I remember that this Phantom movie was beautiful. Yesterday I had a chance to watch it again.

The movie begins with Christine's arrival at the Paris Opera House. As the opening credit rolls, we can see some beautiful front side of the building. Christine has been sent to Paris by Count Philippe de Chagny, the opera house's patron, to take a singing lesson. The count saw her singing in a fair and thought her voice was beautiful. Unfortunately, the opera house has just had a new director, whose wife, Carlotta, doesn't believe Christine can sing. Carlotta places her in the costume department. Christine stays in the opera house and one night the Phantom hears her singing and takes her as his pupil. When the Count de Chagny arrives, he holds a party and in this party Christine sings and they can see that she is much better than Carlotta, the opera house's star. In her jealousy, Carlotta ruins Christine's premier debut, and this makes the Phantom angry and brings down the big chandelier. He takes Christine down to his lair, beneath the opera house. In a picnic, Christine asks the Phantom to open his mask, but the shock makes her faint. The Phantom realizes that granting Christine that wish is a huge mistake, but it is too late. She is gone, back to the count, but she knows that she must make amends.

Directed by Tony Richardson, this is the best version of The Phantom of The Opera I've ever seen. Charles Dance as Erik the Phantom, has a witty sense of humour. At least twice he takes off his mask, but instead of showing the audience his horrible face, it turns out he still has another mask under the first one. His face is never shown to the audience. Teri Polo is very beautiful as Christine. It's too bad the songs are in French. My French is miserable, and the subtitles are in German. Burt Lancaster plays Gerard Carriere, the old director of the opera house, also Erik's father. He always takes care of his son and in the end promises him that he 'will not end on display'. Jean-Pierre Cassel plays Inspector Ledoux, who wants to capture the Phantom. Andréa Ferréol who plays Carlotta is very funny, especially in the scene where the Phantom has done something with her wig. I think the ending is very sweet: Christine kisses Erik on his forehead (and not like Andrew Lloyd Webber's version where she kisses him on the mouth) - showing that she loves him very much, but it's different from her love to Philippe (yes, here the count is named Philippe instead of Raoul. In the novel, Philippe is Raoul's older brother.).

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