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Those Personal Connections

Phantom is clearly the kind of movie that could only have been made in the ’70s. The popularity of god-like producer Phil Spector’s work was winding down, and the rise of both underground music movements such as punk rock and glam were slowly taking shape. The Beach Boys were “dead”, as were the classics of the 50’s. All of this is reflected by De Palma and Williams in the changing musical styles of The Juicy Fruits. Winslow represents a forgotten lyrical voice, left behind the times.

This is the kind of music that shaped me. Looking at my musical family tree, this writer was raised by two hippies that turned into hard rock enthusiasts. One was a bit Jimi Hendrix and Queen, while the other was more Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell. Learning and loving The Beatles’ White Album was a rite of passage, and knowing all of the words to The Who’s Tommy was essential. I was a product of an era – one that a majority of my friends didn’t understand, since their focus was on either a boy band or pop-influenced musical.

So when a movie that talks about the shifting of popularity in rock music (with lots of fantastical, insane imagery) came my way, my upbringing instantly made it feel personal. And with a soundtrack written by  one of the greatest songwriters of all time (who has had one foot in the pop music pond and the other in the rock), it seemed that I was destined for me to love this movie. It felt like a movie made for me.

But those strange personal connections continued. My parents resembled a bit of Winslow and his love, Phoenix. My father is a tall and lanky fellow, who sometimes speaks about his thoughts and dreams in ways that people just don’t understand. My mom is a shorter, brown haired girl, who has passion for her goals and a fire within her that cannot be dimmed even under the worst of circumstances. No, neither of them ended up being under the control of a music producer at a rock palace, but they did have a bond that seemed to be somewhat written in the stars. Once again, here was a movie speaking to me by accident.

Sometimes, the movies you love the most have nothing to do with your personal life in any way shape or form. But it is hard to ignore these connective threads, especially when you’ve watched something more than you probably care to mention on a first date. Yet there is a bond that you make with said film that (regardless of how much it reflects your past) cannot be undone. It becomes part of you. You question your friendships with people who don’t like it, somethings jokingly and sometimes seriously.

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The Bonds We Make

When most people ask me why Phantom of the Paradise means so much to me, they get a mixed bag of responses. There are obviously the threads to my upbringing, but then there are the more recent memories the movie brings. From the beginning of new friendships, discovering other incredible films, or becoming a fan of the talent involved, Phantom gave me so much more than a movie to pop in my DVD player every couple of months. It shaped me into the movie fan I am today.

If it hadn’t been for Phantom, I likely wouldn’t have dived into the filmography of Brian De Palma, and come to love his other work (including Carrie, Scarface and The Untouchables) along with wanting to discover other filmmakers, including Guillermo Del Toro (my favorite director), who says Phantom is one of his all time favorites and even contributed to the special features for Shout Factory’s recent Blu-Ray release of the film. I also likely wouldn’t have fallen madly in love with Paul Williams. Sure, I might have grown to appreciate him because of his work with the Muppetsbut it wouldn’t have been the same as it is now. And once I found out that other artists that I adore (like Edgar Wright) got caught by the Williams bug, I knew I wasn’t alone. Geniuses loved what I loved! That’s a great feeling.

Phantom of the Paradise has inspired great filmmakers and given a voice to the wacky weirdos that love everything in rock n’roll and film history. And when you push away the insane visuals and over the top characters and performances, you come to realize that we all are Winslow, fighting against our own Swans, wanting someone to listen to our unique interests and take us seriously, so our art can speak for itself.

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