DVD REVIEW: PHANTOM OF THE OPERA / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ANTHONY D.P. MANN / SCREENPLAY: ANTHONY D.P. MANN / STARRING: ANTHONY D.P. MANN, SAVANNAH KIMMERER / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Every once in a generation, a filmmaker comes along who is so consummate in every aspect of the process, their name becomes synonymous with the films they produce. Then there are the filmmakers who simply aspire to be the next Orson Welles. Anthony D.P. Mann, whose retelling of the Phantom of the Opera bears his name and hallmark at every conceivable turn, certainly has ambitions towards being another Welles; sadly his aspirations outstrip his capabilities by some considerable margin.
Straddling the modern day and a 1930s parallel (and including a fifty-something character who was apparently present in both), Mann’s amateur dramatics involve a TV crew fetching up at the mostly disused Garnier Opera House (relocating Gaston Leroux’s story to Canada) to learn about the eponymous Phantom, in one case rather too closely for comfort. Mann, as well as writing and directing and composing two songs, gives in truth probably the best performance here – which isn’t saying a great deal. The rest of the cast are all at sea, with even the more capable acting reminiscent of a senior school performance transferred out onto location but without the requisite recalibrating taking place. The script is ponderous and badly paced but it is the unnatural cadences in the dialogue that really sink the actors.
The home-made feel of the camerawork – Mann has a particular fetish for pulling focus midway through his scenes – isn’t helped in any way by the sound design. The music is adequate, if lacking in passion and atmosphere, but the voice recordings dip in and out of the mix at the will of the boom operator, with no attempt being made either to balance the volume or to clean up the soundtrack via the use of foley. It sounds like a home movie, and that would undermine the production even if better care had been taken with the pictures; if Mann was reaching for a classical feel the truth is he doesn’t even achieve “TV movie”.
You have to feel sorry for Savannah Kimmerer as Christine, playing a double role and having been chosen for the production via a local channel TV reality show; her singing is melodious enough, but the director never manages to bring the passion out of her, leaving the Phantom’s obsession with her voice utterly mystifying. And while the poor girl, 17 at the time of casting, no doubt has a brighter future ahead than this might suggest, her acting is at times woeful and sadly this again comes back to Mann. That he plays the tragedy at the film’s end with as much vanity as he does tells you all you need to know.
One for Leroux aficionados only – and even then, approach cautiously.
Special Features: TBC
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