Phantom of the Paradise ★★★★

I feel barely equipped to write any words about this film, only because it seems like something I should have loved for at least half of my life by now, and yet... I just saw it for my first time. At a time while I'm getting more deeply acquainted with Brian De Palma far too late in my life. After falling completely in love with his operatic psycho-sexual '80s thrillers, going back to this actual rock opera starring Jessica Harper of Suspiria fame and William Finley as the phantom himself is just something... transcendent, and I feel like I need watch this at least a dozen times again to even begin to feel like I've made up for lost time.

Even weirder, I have to admit that my perception of this film is also colored to some extent by my fondness for the manga and anime series Berserk, which very obviously borrows the design of Leach's bird-like Phantom. That they both tell tales about Faustian bargains draws them together, and... well, I'm not really going to say more than that here, but I only wanted to mention it because Berserk is kind of a touchstone uniting Conan the Barbarian, Hellraiser, and (now I see) Phantom of the Paradise. So maybe that will be interesting to someone other than myself.

I really don't want this commentary to take anything away from this film, or how I feel about it. If anything, I feel like I should have seen this during my teens, considering my infatuation with anime like Berserk should have drawn me to it sooner! I guess revelations like this take time to come around, sometimes. It's possible that I appreciate this film now more than I might have ever before in my life, and after seeing it a few more times I'll consider it an immortal favorite. Maybe I'll write another review some time when I've moved beyond these initial preconceptions inspired by things it has influenced. When a film is almost fifty years old, I guess we are sometimes going to to have these weird, hypercontextualized responses to them, but this is one I want to and will come to love fully in its own right, after I've seen it a few more times. It's like this film was meant for me and I never knew it until now. And I don't even like musicals...!

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