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Italy 1998
Directed by
Dario Argento
106 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
1 stars

Phantom Of The Opera (1998)

Synopsis: Christine (Asia Argento) longs to perform on the operatic stage. As she waits for her big break a mysterious cloaked figure (Julian Sands) is killing anyone who gets in the way of the ingenue's career path. The phantom is obsessed by the beautiful girl and will stop at nothing to win her love.

 Dario Argento's shot at the Gaston Leroux's 1909 novel "The Phantom of the Opera" is a misfire but the news is all bad; Argento's daughter Asia makes an alluring Christine, the object of the Phantom's obsession. Following her roles in her father's previous films Trauma and The Stendahl Syndrome she shows much of the star quality that sent her to the big league in XXX. Ennio Morricone's soundtrack, whilst not up with his best or his previous Argento collaborations on Cat 'O' Nine Tales and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, is still a searing example of a horror soundtrack, building suspense and infusing mood. Finally,, the story-line delights in throwing in a couple of excess spanners into the classic tale - the telepathic rats spring to mind. As always, Argento excels with his murderous set pieces and a special mention must go to the falling chandelier.

The faults, however, are numerous. It was a brave move to cast Julian Sands as the Phantom but alas it didn't work. The actor's performances are always hit and miss at best and his wooden efforts here do nothing to enhance the role of the Phantom. Yes, it's interesting to ignore the traditional burnt scars and present the Phantom as an attractive young man but if the actor fails completely to bring any charisma to the role then it cannot be seen as anything but a failure. It doesn't help that the dialogue he is given is dreadful,

Not that Argento's films are renowned for their excellent performances and thoughtful scripting; you only have to watch Inferno to realise this. He is often quoted as saying he is more interested in the baroque architecture that surrounds his cast than what's happening in front if it. His Phantom of the Opera, however, lacks the visual flourishes and characteristic style that the director usually brings to his films. Everything here just looks like a drab reworking of his previous films, even the operatic scenes lack the dexterous camerawork of his '80s masterpiece Opera. Indeed the film comes across as Argento's desperate attempt to revisit his past glories after a succession of box office and critical failures.




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