Phantom of the Paradise ★★★★★

"You know how I abhor perfection in anyone but myself." - Swan

I love musicals. I love storytelling. I love music. I love music as storytelling. So obviously, I love musicals.

Combine a musical with horror, satire, fantasy and scathing cultural analysis? Great sweet potatoes Grandma. Check my pulse cuz I'm probably in heaven.

A song can define a character or a situation better than most dialog. There's an old saying in writing that you show and don't tell but in a song you can do both at once and get away with it like the devil.

Phantom of the Paradise is a perfect example. It opens with one of the funniest musical numbers I've ever heard. But if you listen closely to those lyrics that song is telling you exactly what you're in for and why. The more times I watch this movie, the better and more elaborate it becomes, and I've watched this movie a lot.

This movie is a phantasmagoria (EH?) full of rock music, horror, fantasy and satire about the artistic process in a society that chews up artists and spits out their bones. It takes Phantom of the Opera blends it with a little Faust, a little Dorian Gray and a ton of commentary on the commercialisation of art and culture. And also Hitchcock. And Mario Bava. And drug culture. And 50s nostalgia. And maybe KISS? Or vice versa?

It's about exploitation of artists by business but it's also about the exploitation of artists by each other. How the system creates a sort of cyclical chain of abuse that perpetuates the idea of talent as disposable. That creativity exists only as currency. But when artists sign away their work they're not just signing away a product, but a part of themselves. Which leads to folks like the titular hero Winslow being burned by the entertainment business (in the film's case in more ways than just one). And we live in a world that treats this artistic mutilation as a necessary element of being a creator. And it's so normalised and taught to artists that when we look at it through any kind of different perspective? It's not just disturbing. It feels downright demonic.

And after the recent real-life allegations of casting couches and abuse of aspiring talent and actors by powerful individuals and creative auteurs? This film feels like it could have been made yesterday.

To say that and to also say that this is an entertaining, clever movie that never feels too heavy? That has a ton of memorable performances, slick artistic design and hilarious satire? You hear this term thrown around a lot these days but this is a film that really does subvert expectations. It gives you everything you expect in a way you don't see coming. It goes above and beyond the norm, being its own unique, creative, experience.

Also the songs are tasty as Mama's chilli. And my Mama makes some damn sweet chilli.

Phantom of the Paradise is a great film.

You should check it out.

If you don't? I'm getting the plunger.

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