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Liz Smith on Phantom

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews
Article Date: December 15, 2004 | Publication: Newsday | Author: Liz Smith

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ALTHOUGH Andrew Lloyd Webber's music is set to English and thereby is perhaps not opera, the screen version of his stage phenomenon, "The Phantom of the Opera" reveals itself as a ravishing tribute to that great art. The film is drenched in beauty and in the opulent legend, myth and mise-en-scene of that world, circa Paris in the late 1800s. Even Franco Zeffirelli, one of the premier opera obsessives of our time, might well walk away from "Phantom" bedazzled.

Of course, the famous story of a mad, disfigured man fatally yearning after a young singer is unchanged; the great set piece - the plummeting chandelier - is there for the thrill. And its crash has been wisely moved closer to the movie's end!

The film is conceived with such dramatic commitment, style, sweep and romance. Just wait till you see these sets and the exquisite cinematography. The opening alone is worth the price of admission. I'll go out on a limb to insist that this movie is to opera what "The Red Shoes" is to ballet.

Most of the actors - including leads Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler - are unfamiliar faces, but they acquit themselves with just the right dreamy panache. Minnie Driver is the one "name" in the cast, and she is great as the diva. I especially adore Patrick Wilson, best known as the tormented gay Mormon of Mike Nichols' "Angels in America," as the young hero in "Phantom."

Remember when going to the movies left you breathless? See "The Phantom of the Opera" and gasp deliciously for air.


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