Monday, November 09, 2015

'The Phantom of the Opera'

9 November 2015

On Sunday we were at The Stables in Wavendon to the 1925 silent film of 'The Phantom of the Opera' accompanied with live music from the group Minima. This event was part of the national BFI initiative 'LOVE: Films to Fall in Love With… Films to Break Your Heart'. Minima is a four-piece rock band that specialises in writing and performing new scores for silent films. It was fascinating to see this classic horror film, featuring an iconic performance by Lon Chaney, on a big screen with live music. The film has an odd feel for a modern audience: the changes in our attitudes to mental illness and facial disfigurement since 1925 make the plot more uncomfortable than intended but also the exaggerated acting style of silent movies appears unintentionally comic now. The incredibly abrupt ending of the film left the audience more amused than shocked. But there were some truly scary moments: the scene where a giant chandelier falls from the theatre ceiling to crush members of the opera audience felt shockingly real. And the artistic use of shadows in the cellars of the opera house was very effective. Visually the film is stunning, with some amazing crowd scenes. And the Paris Opera itself is the star of the show – a beautiful building, lovingly presented on screen. The black and white film had later been 'colourised' with successive scenes tinted in different colours to emphasise the change of location and mood. But apparently, when the film was originally released in 1925, it contained 17 minutes of colour footage – an early example of Process 2 Technicolor (a two-colour system). The surviving two-colour scene (the Bal Masqué) has a peculiarly psychedelic look that fits the growing panic and hysteria of the plot.

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