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Phantom of the Opera (1998 movie)

1 rating: -2.0
1998 film directed by Dario Argento.

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1 review about Phantom of the Opera (1998 movie)

One of Argento's weakest - and most disappointing - features.

  • Oct 25, 2011
*1/2 out of ****

It's awfully difficult to see passion in a film project when the filmmaker behind it wrongs more than he rights. Such is the case with Dario Argento's adaptation of the classic Gothic Romance/Horror novel "The Phantom of the Opera". It is a film that Argento was obviously committed to throughout its entire production, but man, never has dedication been this boring, bland, disjointed, and silly. Well, maybe I'm wrong in saying that; there have been worse movies attached to directors who care. It's just that Argento - whose older films earned him the title as a "Master of Horror" - should always impress in some way, shape, or form; and that is the opposite of what he does here. His "Phantom of the Opera" sucks. It can't measure up to the 1925 classic, hell, it can't even match the Joel Schumacher adaptation; which was more based on the Broadway production inspired by the novel than on the novel itself.

Can I say I was surprised? Argento has been disappointing his fans and his audience for years now. Most consider "Opera" to be his last good/watchable feature, although I somewhat disagree; "Trauma" and "The Stendhal Syndrome" are ones to look into if you wish to prove yourself wrong. This, however, is just repulsive and unimaginative trash. It looks like it was made-for-television, which it probably was, and it plays out more like an awkward taboo fantasy rather than a film. So much was put into the film, yet we bring out so little. "Phantom of the Opera" offers up no reward in exchange for sitting through it in its entirety.

I guess I can pay a short compliment to Argento; at least he tried to be creative, and if you look closely, you can even see some of the plot elements he has used in the past being re-used yet again here (such as ballet, a general fear of the dark, sexual desires, etc). Argento's first new idea involves the Phantom himself; who was, in this version, supposedly abandoned as an infant by his parents and left for dead the sewers, where the rats eventually took him under their united-and-therefore-massive wing, raising him until he escapes from childhood and into a more adult life.

The Phantom wanders around the Opera House, which lies above the sewer that he calls home, for a lot of the time; watching the performers, sometimes stalking them. He is particularly intrigued by a beautiful young actress named Christine (Asia Argento), who has a voice as beautiful as her appearance. The Phantom is smitten; he has fallen for her, and he will get her, whatever the costs may be. He fears that she will not willingly love him back; and he might be right in such assumptions. The Phantom is a social outcast, a reject, sometimes a killer; he craves both blood and sex over the more tame desires of man. But even then, maybe he isn't as different as the story wants him to be.

You'll notice something important here; the Phantom is not disfigured whatsoever, as he was in previous versions. He wears no mask because he needn't own one in the first place, although he is equally as troubled inside. In Argento's film, he is played rather effectively by Julian Sands, who wears an awful lot of make-up for the part. This new visual look for the Phantom wasn't to my taste, but some might admire and enjoy what Dario was trying to do here. For every film, there's an audience, and even though I had a hard time merely enduring the experience of watching this embarrassing failure of a horror movie, there will be those who even enjoy a film this messy and unfocused.

Meh. "Phantom of the Opera" is not a film that I care about whatsoever, since Argento does nothing to grab my attention. It doesn't contain enough of the filmmaker's stylistic trademarks to be decent; and the production is just mediocre on a visual scale. I also felt increasingly uncomfortable whenever Asia Argento had a sex scene; it's like daddy - and yes, I speak of Argento - is a demented voyeur who will not restrain himself even for the sake of securing artistry in a film. I don't know about you, but I'd feel pretty damn uncomfortable if my father was filming me nude; with the camera caressing my very being. Or maybe I'm the only one who feels this way; perhaps it's best just not to mind any of it. But the bottom line is this: "Phantom of the Opera" is an almost unwatchable example of what happens when a good director tries something completely different and takes a detour down campy, all-out ridiculous Lane. There was little to like about the film. There were some good scenes, yes, and many decent ones too; but the bad overweighs the good, and it just doesn't work. Not even for a good moment. To call it unique would be to abuse a word that applies to all that is artful, whimsical, beautiful, and even somewhat special; whilst "Phantom of the Opera" is not any of those things.

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October 25, 2011
Been ages since I saw this one last, but I do agree; this may be the weakest one by Argento....
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