Off-Topic

A Word from Further off the Path

So this project, which was to be about reading books I own and blogging about them, has so far consisted mostly of reading books I don’t own and not blogging about them.

I was going – I really was – to write a little after-report of The Phantom of the Opera. I was going to say intelligent things about the mystery genre and the tendency of its storylines to be plausible physically but psychologically utterly bizarre, taking Ellery Queen as a comparison-case.

I was going to say a thing or so, too, about the first film version (which I saw many years ago, and then again after I was done with the book), and about the peculiar interaction between the descriptions of the book and the half-memories of other images, so that although the Persian was described as black-skinned I saw him like this:

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And although Christine was described as blonde I saw her like this:

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And although Erik was described as having eyes so sunken as to be invisible, I saw him like… well, this:

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(Lon Chaney’s makeup is remarkable, but it’s also kind of sui generis; I find his appearance hard to connect directly to that described in the book.)

I was going to watch a recording of the Lloyd Webber musical (of which I have no previous knowledge except for the 2004 film and enraged fan reactions thereto), and try to say something intelligent about that.

I was, in other words, going to make something come of all this.

Instead, I’m cluttering my AO3 account with unfortunate fanfic (no, you may not read it; I’m doing my best to keep that identity separate). And reading Trilby, about which more later if it doesn’t drive me nutzoid. (Srsly, I can’t read French anyway, so asking me to read French in a spelled-out Teutonic accent is just unkind.)

(Also, that opening page. Gah, that opening page. I thought I’d opened up The Picture of Dorian Gray by mistake.)

(Or do all late-Victorian novels open with a scene like that? Dorian Gray may be the only other one I’ve ever read.)

(The pictures sure are pretty, though.)

Джалло! (or, This Blog Jumps the Shark)

So I may have mentioned that I have been imbibing an awful lot of The Phantom Project lately, and maybe kind of it gets in the blood. Now those reviews – take heed before you dare to click here! or here! – are remarkably spoilerriffic. I don’t mind this, by and large, because 87.3% of the works in question are things I a) will never, ever read/watch, b) already know the ending to, or c) both. (O hai there, Love Never Dies.)

But then there was the review of Dance Macabre (sic!), which makes a huge deal of warning about the spoiler. I found this sufficiently out of character that I actually stopped reading and resolved to track down a copy. Luckily, it was available at my sister’s library as one of those “from the vaults” DVD-Rs.

I had some hassles getting the thing to play, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, some notes on the film. This is half my own, actual thoughts and half me holding the envelope to my forehead and predicting what Anne’s review is going to say once I finally give in and read it. So:

  • Ignore the Russian setting and crew: this is a giallo. The whole thing – the plot, the camerawork, the music, the queer non-literal lighting – resembles what would hypothetically have happened if Mario Bava had made a crappy movie. I dig this pretty hard: I’m inclined to feel the same way about Bava as Yasuhiro Nightow feels about nori.
  • Related, though not identical, to the above: Is this film drawing some pretty overt parallels with Suspiria, or do all horror movies set in European ballet schools just kind of resemble each other by accident? Including having American protagonists named Jessica?
  • Speaking of names, I find it interesting that the first two murder victims (the ones whose deaths were passed off as disappearances) are Claudine and Angela. These have pretty overt Phantomy connotations: “Claudine” resembles “Claudin,” the surname of the Phantom character in the 1943 film, and “Angela” requires no explanation. (I still have no idea what this all means. It could be a coincidence: they are both very ethnic names belonging to very ethnic characters.)
  • About the big twist: I had an inkling of it about the second time Madame appeared, and I’d full-on guessed it just shy of fifteen minutes into the movie. This is after taking care to avoid all spoilers (I didn’t even read the back of the DVD case). Knowing that there was a gimmick probably primed me a little, but honestly, it was really, really not well hidden at all.
  • I wonder if having any familiarity at all with Swan Lake would have improved my appreciation of this film. (I don’t know the story, even though I’m 100% certain I saw the ballet in my youth. And the main message I get from that music is, “You are about to watch Dracula and/or The Mummy.”)