Swan's Video Surveillance Center : Currently Viewing Monitor 2 <return to previous monitor>
When Winslow gets out of the box, he has somehow lost the Swan Foundation cap he had on when he got into it, and is now wearing a short hair wig to cover Bill Finley's long hair.
Had Winslow's earlier visit to Death Records been kept intact, this shot would have essentially repeated it, in keeping with the film's "circularity" themes. Here, though, in contrast to the earlier visit, there's no need to cut around his entry into the lobby, because he moves so fast that the "Swan Song Enterprises" signage over the doorway could be blacked out using a matte with nobody really noticing. (See our Production Fiasco page for more on this.) Although this sequence was filmed on the same day as his first visit (December 7, 1973), the Receptionist is wearing different clothes (no red boots!) here, to reinforce the idea that this is six months later.
A variant of the gag with the crazed Winslow chasing the greasers is seen in Star Wars, when Han Solo, looking similarly deranged, chases a group of stormtroopers across the Death Star until the dimwits figure out that they outnumber him. (The gag is ruined in the Star Wars special edition, in which Lucas couldn't resist CGI'ing a bunch more stormtroopers into the shot so that, instead of the stormtroopers being so phenomenally stupid that they only belatedly realize they outnumber Han, the tables are instead turned when they (cleverly) lead Han into a trap: a hangar bay filled with dozens more stormtroopers. Take our word for it, kids, it was funnier in the original.)
This sequence was shot in the Pressman toy factory, and utilizes a real injection molding machine, dressed (with foam padding) to look like a record press. There's a lot of nonsense out on the 'net about how Bill Finley's "scream is real" because the safety chocks that prevented the record press from closing all the way malfunctioned. In fact, the chocks did, in one take, fail to perform their function, but (although Finley has, joking around, told the story differently) he was pulled out before he knew anything had gone wrong. The machine was then re-set to move more slowly, and, although he was assured that what had already been shot was sufficient for the film's needs, Finley volunteered for another take. (To suggest that Finley was in real danger, or that he was somehow browbeaten into risking his life for the shot, does a tremendous disservice, in our opinion, to the production crew, and to Finley himself.)
Many people swear up and down that they remember seeing Winslow's mangled face coming out of the record press when they saw the movie in theaters. In fact, De Palma removed the closeup of Winslow's post-mooshing visage from the film, just before its release, because he (and perhaps the sneak preview audiences) felt it was tonally inconsistent (which we assume means "too gory for the comic book look of the piece.") Most of the people who "remember" seeing this probably remember it either because they were at a pre-release screening at the Avco Theater in Westood on July 27, 1974, or on the 20th Century Fox lot in the late summer of 1974, before the shot had been removed, or from having seen it in one of the film's trailers ("previews of coming attractions"). (Even today, trailers often contain footage that doesn't end up in the final cut of the movie, because the trailers are often prepared before editing has been finished on the films they are advertising.) You can view this trailer, if you're interested, on our Promotion page, here. The entire excised sequence, with Winslow emerging all bloodied from the machine, running across the factory floor, and getting shot by the guard (none of which is in the final cut of the film) appears on our Outtakes page, here. (In a really nice touch of detail, you can see in this clip, as well, that the interior of the record press is covered with blood after the mishap.) It is also clear from this deleted footage that the guard shot Winslow in the abdomen, which is why he's bleeding from there in the next scene. The "record press scene" was shot on January 24, 1974.
It sucks that Winslow had the Juicy Fruits' version of his song burned into the side of his head. As Winslow crawls, dying, across the stage at the Paradise, if you look carefully, you can see that there's a black "Death Records" bird on the mangled part of his face, as if it were tattooed there. It matches the one in the record press. In Gaston Leroux's original Phantom of the Opera novel from 1909, and the early film adaptations, the Phantom was disfigured from birth. The idea that he would be mutilated as part of the story, and because he thought someone had stolen his music, originated with Universal Studios' 1943 Claude Rains film (in which the Phantom's unattractiveness is caused by acid thrown in his face). Paradise's plotting is closest to Universal's 1962 (Herbert Lom) version, in which the Phantom, this time a poor professor, finds that his music is being printed under wealthy Lord D'Arcy's name instead of his own. When he sneaks into the printers shoppe late at night and attempts to destroy their inventory of the falsely-labeled sheet music, as well as the printing plates, he accidentally sets the place on fire. He attempts to put out the blaze with acid (thinking it's water -- oops), the acid splashes him in the face, and he runs off to dive into the river to relieve the pain. The similarities between Paradise's story and the 1962 film (and differences from the novel) are presumably what gave rise to Universal's claims that Paradise was adapted from what they believed to be their storyline. The 1962 version, while in our opinion far lamer than either the 1925 (Lon Chaney) or 1943 (Claude Rains) efforts, is notable for being the first to give the Phantom a one-eyed mask and, as bad as it is, for being not nearly as bad as the horrible Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
A stunt double stood in for Bill Finley for the shot of Winslow falling into the East River; Finley, very reasonably, we think, was not willing to go in.
Variety tells us that it's Wednesday, December 4, 1974, which gives us, for the first time, a clear indication of when the film's events are supposed to be taking place. (The production used a copy of Variety from April 3, 1974, pictured here, as the starting point for mocking up their fake edition.) The use of the spinning Variety newspaper (and, later, Rolling Stone) is of course another little wink at Citizen Kane, and its use of newspaper headlines to further its own story. Of course, the production had to get permission from Variety to do this.
This is the New York City Center, at 131 W.55th, in Manhattan. Presumably, this location was used for the exterior of the Paradise because it's more impressive looking than the front of the Majestic, in Dallas (where the Paradise interiors were shot). (The front of the Majestic looks unremarkable, and like any other random movie theater.) The Phantom's heavy breathing on the soundtrack reminds us a lot of the wheezing noise made by another famous damaged villain, who will make his first appearance a couple of years later, in Star Wars. But that's where the similarities end; it's not like that other character has injuries that require him to wear a voicebox with switches and dials on his chest to enable him to talk, wears a cape, mask and black leather from head to toe, or...oh, wait. Yes he does. (As is well known, Lucas and De Palma were friends, and even collaborated at times: they ran joint auditions for Star Wars and Carrie; De Palma wrote the opening crawl for Star Wars; and Lucas hired editor Paul Hirsch to work on Star Wars having been impressed with his work on Phantom.) We think it's impossible that Darth Vader's look was not inspired, in part, by the Phantom's.
We love how the swish pan here takes us from the New York City Center to the two Death Records thugs standing next to the alley behind the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and then a clever optical slides us to a door at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, thousands of miles away. And "I take the tire, and I shove it right in his mouth" has to be one of the best lines of dialogue in any De Palma film.
We see from Winslow's eye as he enters the Paradise, played by the Majestic Theater, in Dallas. By placing the viewer "inside Winslow's head", De Palma encourages us to adopt his perspective, and to begin to identify with him, even if we might have viewed him, to this point, as a dork. There's some parallelism at work here, as well: In our first exposure to "The Phantom," we see from the Phantom's perspective, just as, at the opening of the movie, our first exposure to Swan was from Swan's perspective, as Philbin told his tale of woe. From a more practical standpoint, utilizing the Phantom's point of view permits De Palma to deprive the audience of an extended opportunity to see Winslow's mangled face, so that the brief glimpses of it we will get later are more effective.
We are further encouraged to identify with Winslow when, first, we share his thrill of scaring the crap out of the burly greasers, and, second, when we, along with him, take a step back into the stairwell to avoid "getting caught" by the girls going into the rehearsal hall. Even though we suspect he's up to no good, we don't want them to see him, because we literally share his perspective: in mere seconds, we have come to share his "me against the world" point of view. We're glad that De Palma didn't have to resort to first-person narration (as Kubrick did in "A Clockwork Orange" and as is traditionally used to create intimacy between the audience and other dastardly-villains-whom-we're-supposed-to-like-anyway, like Dexter) to get us to side with Winslow.
"Backstage" at the Paradise, the walls are red, suggestive of hell, which is of course Swan's domain.
As Winslow places the mask over his head and becomes the Phantom, we become him, and we will root for him (and against the Juicy Fruits, whom we now suddenly see as ridiculous), as he attempts to blow them up. The helmet was designed by Bill Finley, who says, "I wanted it to be somewhere between a sort of bird of prey and a little bit of an alien, the notion of a human being transforming into something totally different." The helmet was made by Sonny Burman, whose brother Tom made Winslow's scarred facial appliance and chrome teeth, as well as the "face melting" appliance worn by Paul Williams. (We get a lot of email from people who want to know where they can get a replica of the Phantom's helmet; check our FAQ page.) The Burmans had both worked at John Chambers' studio before embarking on their own, and went uncredited (and, like many others who worked on Phantom, unpaid). (Chambers was credited as the make-up designer, but in fact did not do hands-on work on the film at all.) Williams' silver facemask for the wedding sequence was the mold that had been taken of his face for use by the makeup crew on Battle for the Planet of the Apes, in which he had played an orangutan. Rolf Miller, although he probably had no involvement in the design of Winslow or Swan's "gore" pieces, was credited for makeup. Miller had been nominated for an Emmy in 1970 for his work on an episode of "Bewitched" in which Darren is hexed by Endora and turns into an old man. We wonder if he had been hired for Phantom initially because it was anticipated that old age makeup would be required for Swan, and he had proven his expertise in the area. Miller unfortunately died in a plane crash before Phantom was released. As far as Winslow's makeup, we assume that his next stop after snagging the helmet was to stop by Walgreens and grab some black lipstick. We never see him applying the lipstick, but he probably carries it around with him in one of the pockets in his leather outfit. Winslow's lipstick varies in "freshness" throughout the film; sometimes, it's completely worn off, and almost invisible, or spotty. We presume that this is in part because Winslow, prior to becoming the Phantom, didn't have a lot of experience with lipstick, and how to keep it looking its best all the time. As well, he spends some time, later, out in a rainstorm, spying on Phoenix and Swan, which can't be helping his cosmetics. It makes sense that when Winslow is busy burning down the Paradise, or singlemindedly focused on rewriting his cantata for Phoenix, his attention to lipstick upkeep might fall by the wayside every now and then. Since a makeup artist will never intentionally let a character's makeup be inconsistent from shot to shot unless the plot or weather calls for it, or the character is being shown to be a slob of some kind, we have to assume that the explanation here is that Winslow just isn't very accustomed to "putting on his face" at this early stage of his terrorizing career.
This sequence, shot at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, is of course a riff on the opening scene from Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, in which a bomb is placed in a car's trunk, and we follow the car in a single uninterrupted take for about three and a half minutes until the bomb finally explodes. Here, the bombing, along with a complex musical number, is staged in one continuous take, and, as if to one-up Welles, in splitscreen as well. (Well, actually, the take is ALMOST continuous. There's a cut on the lefthand side of the screen immediately before the car explodes because, of course, they couldn't blow up a car at the end of each take, nor while the surfer girls were still perched on it.) The splitscreen is used both to evoke a sense that two things are going on simultaneously -- the performance, and the bomb ticking away - and also to convey a feeling of "real time": will the bomb be discovered before it's too late? Will Harold avoid being blown up by leaving the stage to talk to Philbin? De Palma uses splitscreen for similar purposes in Sisters, as Bill Finley and Margot Kidder rush to clean up all the blood before the police arrive... we see them frantically cleaning, as, at the same time, we see the police approach the murder scene. In both films, the splitscreen heightens the suspense, by making clear that neither the bomb nor the police will have their progress slowed or manipulated through the expedient of cross-cutting, and has us holding our breath in suspense not only with regard to the events comprising the overt narrative, but also out of concern that the director might not get away with this audacious move: is he really going to be able to sustain a single take, with everything going exactly right, until the bomb finally goes off?
In Phantom, as in Touch of Evil, we see the bomb only for a moment at the very beginning of the sequence, and then it disappears. The audience knows it's there, but, as the sequence progresses, it becomes almost subliminal, receding further and further to the back of the mind, until it finally explodes. The fact that we haven't seen the Phantom's bomb for a couple of minutes makes the explosion all the more surprising, just as it did in Touch of Evil, while, at the same time, remembering that the bomb had been there all along, we laugh at ourselves for being surprised. Though the scene is effective, De Palma has lamented that he wasn't able to shoot it as elaborately as he would have liked, because of time/budget pressures, and because one of the two camera operators was just not as good as the other. (Their movements had to be precisely coordinated so as not to intrude on one another's field of vision.) As it was, it took over twenty takes.
As mentioned, the Beach Bums sequence is generally understood to be an homage to the long take that opens Welles' Touch of Evil. Over the years, we've read a lot of pieces by blowhards who try to make the case that De Palma's repurposing of Welles' work (and other classic moments from his favorite films) is somehow a "commentary" on the earlier work, or a "statement" of some kind "about cinema". Honestly, this sort of blathering is what you get when you combine too much film school and not enough common sense. It seems pretty clear to us that De Palma created this scene as, in essence, a valentine to Welles (with whom he had worked a couple of years previously, on Get to Know Your Rabbit), and just because he thought it would be fun to emulate one of his own favorite sequences. (Keep in mind that the club that Susan walks by right after the carbomb goes off in Touch of Evil is, as pictured here, the "Paradise"...we'll have more to say about that later.) There is a bit of subtext here: Touch of Evil was famously taken out of Welles' hands by studio suits after he shot it, and while he was still editing it (just as Get to Know Your Rabbit was, a little over a decade later, taken out of De Palma's hands after being shot but prior to being edited). Much to Welles' consternation, the studio's cut of his film differed substantially from his vision, to the point that, in 1958, after attending a preview screening of his butchered masterpiece, he wrote a heartfelt and mournful 58 page memo to the head of Universal describing in intricate detail how he had intended the film to be cut - a memo which itself was lost, until a copy was discovered in the 1990s, in Charlton Heston's papers. In 1973, when Phantom was shot, the only version of Touch of Evil that anyone had seen was the studio-mangled one, in which (against Welles' wishes) the opening credits were played over the single-take carbomb scene, repeatedly interrupting it and completely ruining its intended effect. As well, the music accompanying the scene was not the sound of rock music blaring from cantinas and nightclubs along the street (as Welles had wanted), but Henry Mancini's lush score. It seems likely to us that, when they worked together on Rabbit, Welles might have explained to De Palma - one director to another -- how he had wanted his opening shot to be presented, and perhaps how upset he was that it had been ruined. The scene in Phantom that is now universally thought of as an homage to Touch of Evil is in fact, we believe, an homage not to Touch of Evil, but to Welles' original - and, in 1973, unseen -- conception of that scene. We suspect that De Palma's creation -- a car-bomb scene, shot in one continuous take, with rock music blaring -- was intended, in part, as a gift to Welles: it is as if De Palma was saying, "I can't re-cut Touch of Evil for you, my friend, but maybe this will suffice." In 1998, Universal finally had Welles' film painstakingly re-edited, and the soundtrack re-worked, by famed editor Walter Murch, using Welles' rediscovered memo as the blueprint, removing the distracting titles, and replacing the Mancini score with ambient music overflowing from nightclubs, as Welles had wished (and of course making the hundreds of other changes Welles had wanted). Welles never saw it, having died in 1985. We hope that he, at least, saw Phantom.
Sound recording for this sequence was particularly challenging, because the music playback had to be loud enough that the dancers and musicians onstage could hear it and pantomime to it, while not so loud that it would overpower Philbin's dialogue with Harold and with Linda the surfer girl. The solution was to use a bunch of small speakers from Radio Shack strategically placed around the set so that each of the musicians and dancers could hear the music through their own speaker. During Philbin's dialogues with Linda and Harold, the music was re-directed through these little speakers instead of the larger Altecs that were used for most of the on-set playback, and was then directed back to the Altecs after the dialogue was done. Because of the use of the two cameras, there was no way for boom mikes to be used without being seen by one or the other of the cameras, so the actors carried radio microphones to transmit their spoken lines to a nearby receiver. But the transmission range was very short...not even powerful enough to transmit from one end of the stage to the other. So, as the actors moved around the stage (mostly Philbin and Harold going up onstage, and back down again), a sound man had to crawl around on the stage hiding behind the wooden "waves", holding the receiver and trying to stay as close as he could to the action in order to pick up the short-range radio transmissions.
Jeff Comanor gets lead singing duties on "Upholstery", which is of course a surfband adaptation of Winslow's "Faust". The opening riff is a variant on the organ line from the Beach Boys' "California Girls". Canadian alt-rock duo Tegan and Sara did a wonderful homage to this scene, and Phantom in general, in their video for their song "I Hear Noises", which you can watch here. The guys pretending to play the instruments are the same ones we saw playing behind the Juicy Fruits earlier: Dave Garland on keys, Art Munson on guitar, Colin Cameron on bass, and Gary Mallaber (misspelled as "Mallabar" on the soundtrack liner notes) on drums.
The car's explosion was apparently much bigger than had been anticipated. Juicy Fruit Jeff Comanor tells us, "some of of got burned- the bang sounded a lot like a mark 2 frag grenade I remembered from the army."
This hall of mirrors is above the lobby at the Majestic Theater in Dallas. It still looks pretty much just like this, except for the Swan Song cameras hanging from the ceiling. We like how, as Swan walks down the hallway and we follow his progress, De Palma's camera can't be seen in any of the mirrors, nor in the mirror on the "secret door" as it is opened and closed. Swan is wearing a brown suit here, and again when he exits his secret room, which doesn't match the black and red outfit we see him wearing inside. No fancy symbolism here, it's just a continuity error.
More red walls, indicative of Swan being in the bowels of his self-made hell.
Swan's security cameras are very smart indeed, as they intelligently pan and zoom to follow the action.
Here, the camera swings from this position, with the Phantom looming large in the foreground and having all the power...
...to this, with Swan (implausibly!) elevated above the Phantom, emphasizing the degree to which he has taken control of the situation. More than one person have written us to tell us that they tried to enter Swan's secret room by twisting one of the sconces in the hall at the Majestic (we're sure the Majestic's staff must be sick of this...), but that the walls behind the mirrors seem very solid, and asked how the production could have put a secret door in the hallway. The answer is that the secret door panel, and the panels on either side, were replicas of the originals, and stood just in front of the Majestic's actual mirrored wall. Here's the invoice for construction of the replica panels!
Finley, who stands several inches taller than six feet, is crouching down as best he can to reduce the height difference between himself and the five-foot-two Swan, to help make Swan seem less unimposing. This entire scene, shot in a hallway lined with mirrors, with the camera never being visible in any of them, is a well choreographed stunt.
We like the swan artwork on the drumhead here. Since it's natural to focus on the girl who's singing, a lot of people miss Philbin waggling his finger in his ear as hard as he can, as if trying to get the horrible shrieking noise to stop. This scene was shot on the stage of the Majestic Theater in Dallas. The band members here are the same ones we saw earlier playing behind the Juicy Fruits: Dave Garland on keys, Art Munson on guitar, Colin Cameron on bass, and Gary Mallaber on drums.
The woman writing on the yellow pad is Mary Margaret Amato again. She has more screen time than some of the principals! Not that we're complaining. One of the interesting things about Phantom is that, unlike virtually all other musicals, characters do not suddenly break out into song as a substitute for dialogue, to tell us how they're feeling, or their aspirations. (This is one of the perennial troubles with musicals; songs, even if they're good, tend to interrupt, and bring the story to a halt.) In Phantom, nobody sings to tell us about their love for another character, or how alone they feel, as the other characters onstage pretend that it's not bizarre that someone has just burst into song, or that an orchestra has come out of nowhere to accompany them. Rather, the songs take place within the context of the story, as performances, or, as here, auditions. (While this is unusual, Phantom is of course not the only creature of this type; Cabaret is another.) Although the songs don't directly express the characters' concerns, they generally evoke the themes of the film, as an indirect commentary on the story.
Jessica Harper bought some of Phoenix's accessories herself, using her mom's (Jessica's mom's, not Phoenix's mom's) Bloomingdale's card). She also brought her own fedora, much to the costume designer's consternation, and we think it was a great idea. When she very purposefully tosses it on the floor as she begins her audition, she economically conveys a tremendous amount about her character's strong-willed nature and self possession. That single gesture transforms Phoenix from "naïve waif" to "likeably spunky and self-aware". Phoenix's audition song, "Special to Me", is addressed to someone who is driven to make himself "special" through hard work and success, when, in fact, he is just fine without it, if he would only see himself as she does. "Special to Me" could be about Winslow, Swan, or Phoenix herself; they are all undone by their ambition, their need to find "specialness" in fame.
I don't know how many times we've watched this scene, and we've never been able to make out exactly what's on Phoenix's shirt. It's like a lion hiding behind a bunch of clouds or something. We've posted several outtakes of Phoenix performing this song on our Outtakes page, here. It's easy to imagine a lesser director cutting back and forth repeatedly from Phoenix to Swan's and the other auditioners' impressed reactions to her performance, out of a lack of confidence in the performance, or fearing that the audience would be bored by the "monotony" of watching a solid three minutes of Jessica Harper singing and chickendancing. By sticking with Phoenix for the entire song, albeit with a brief cutaway just at the end, De Palma brings the audience closer to her, and conveys confidence in her ability to hold a crowd's attention. In his well-meaning attempt to "rescue" Phoenix from obscurity by bringing her to Swan's attention, Winslow inadvertently sets in motion the chain of events that will lead to her doom, as she becomes Swan's concubine and signs the contract that will consign her to hell. This theme of well-intentioned do-gooders making things tragically worse, for themselves as well as their intended rescu-ees, permeates De Palma's work: consider Sue Snell's "helping" Carrie by getting her invited to the prom and spending the rest of her life racked with guilt; Blow Out's Jack Terry's attempts to solve a murder getting poor Nancy Allen stabbed to death with an ice pick and leaving himself racked with guilt; Michael Courtland's repeated attempts to rescue his "kidnapped" wife and daughter ending in icky incest (and, we hope, wracked with guilt); Private Eriksson's failed attempt to rescue Oanh leaving him...wracked with guilt (to say nothing of what befell Oanh herself); the list goes on and on.
Everybody makes fun of Phoenix's dancing. We think it's kind of charming. (Jessica Harper says, "That's how I dance!") Here, as in nearly all the musical scenes in the movie, the performer is lip-synching along to on-set playback of their own pre-recorded performance. ("Nearly all" because the artists auditioning for Swan around his gold desk perform live, and Gerrit Graham lip-synchs "Life at Last" to Ray Kennedy's prerecorded performance.) According to editor Paul Hirsch, Ms. Harper worked extremely hard on getting her timing exactly right. However, when this scene was presented at the dailies (the cast and crew's opportunity each day to view the footage that had been shot the previous day), due to a screwup at the processing house, the sound was a few frames off from the video. Jessica's voice was heard out of the darkness of the screening room, "Who do I have to fuck to get in synch around here?"
Here you can see bassist Colin Cameron's name stenciled on his gig case. Colin did not play on the soundtrack, but pretended to play along with the bass parts here, and behind the Juicy Fruits and Beach Bums. While he didn't play on the Phantom soundtrack, Colin was everywhere in the '70s and is still active, to the point that if you're older than forty and own ten CD's, he's probably playing on at least three of them.
The room-filling synthesizer we see the Phantom playing here is a real, one-of-a-kind instrument called T.O.N.T.O. (for "The Original New Timbral Orchestra"). T.O.N.T.O. was the world's first multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer, and was designed and built by a pair of Grammy winning musician/engineer/producer/sound designers -- Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff. It's a Series III Moog modular synthesizer, which Cecil expanded with modules from Moog, Arp, Oberheim, and others. It was used by Stevie Wonder on several albums, and is also heard on records by Quincy Jones, Bobby Womack, The Isley Brothers, Gil Scott-Heron and Weather Report, Steven Stills, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, Little Feat, and Joan Baez. All those dials and jacks on the walls are actually part of the thing, and not some set-designer's fantasy. We unfortunately don't hear sounds actually generated by T.O.N.T.O. in the film, where it's used only for its striking appearance. If you're interested in hearing what T.O.N.T.O. was actually capable of, track down a copy of "Tonto Rides Again," by Tonto's Expanding Head Band. On our Production page, you can see pictures of Stevie Wonder playing T.O.N.T.O during the recording of his Innervisions album.
The Phantom's singing voice is gradually being cleaned up to the point that it becomes Paul Williams', at which point Swan pronounces it "perfect". Of course, it makes sense that Swan's notion of the perfect voice would be his own. We think Swan's reformulation of Winslow's voice is of a piece with other sorts of re-editing depicted in other De Palma films, most obviously Blow Out, but also in Mission Impossible (in which Ethan re-edits, in his mind, how events might have played); Redacted (the major theme of which is how the editing and reportage of events by various intermediaries affects our understanding of them); Hi, Mom (which plays with the manipulation of the facts of the Kennedy assassination to suit the predilection of the manipulator); Snake Eyes (in which we see the opening twenty minutes repackaged and replayed from different angles as Rick Santoro uses footage from multiple surveillance cameras to piece together what actually happened); and even Femme Fatale (in which Laure gets a second chance to re-edit her own life). There has long been a strong undercurrent in De Palma films of the utilization of technology to emphasize, de-emphasize, and re-arrange facts, and to affect perceptions, which is of course exactly what movie directors do for a living.
Here, we can see that the Phantom's face is not mangled under the helmet. Putting on the facial appliance was so time consuming (and therefore expensive) that it was only done for the relatively few scenes in which the Phantom was going to have his mask off.
The Phantom's distorted speaking voice was created in post production; he didn't sound that way on the set.
This is such a beautiful shot; Swan, now understanding just how smitten the Phantom is with Phoenix, holds all the cards, and is in the foreground, occupying most of the screen's real estate, and expounding on how Phoenix will star, and how the Phantom must write for her... while Winslow sits mesmerized in the background, hanging on Swan's every word. The lighting here tells the tale: even though he's in the foreground, Swan is shown in darkness, his true intentions hidden, while Winslow, whose needs are transparent and worn on his sleeve, is brightly lit so that we can see every bit of his desperation; he looks like a bug under a microscope.
We love how Swan seemingly pulls the contract out of nowhere. Paul Williams is, we think, excellent in every scene, but particularly good here, as Swan tries to pretend that he is unconcerned that Winslow may not agree to sign the contract. He's doing his best to win Winslow over with charm, but, particularly when Winslow's not looking directly at him, Williams allows the audience to see the cracks in Swan's façade show through. There's more than a little irony here as Winslow, who has written a whole cantata about Faust, doesn't perceive that he, like Faust, is making a pact with the devil.
Poor Swan. He really wants to look nonchalant, but can't help but hover like a nervous father during childbirth as the Phantom reviews the terms. To get the oppressive contract terms (like "All clauses which have been excluded shall be deemed included"), producer Ed Pressman went to his own lawyer, and asked him to draft the most egregious contractual boilerplate he could think of.
Here's one of those spots where it's really clear that the "Swan Song" name has been covered up with a matte in post production. There's more than you'd ever want to know about this on our Swan Song Fiasco page, here.
Swan is clearly disturbed by what he sees on the tape, which is apparently himself, as an old man (since the tape ages in his place, Dorian Gray style). We hear that his voice is distorted but (probably for budgetary reasons) never see him in old-age makeup. Poor Swan. We hate to see him suffer like this. There's a theme running through the film involving devolution and the pure and beautiful becoming sullied: Winslow and Swan both hide their original, underlying beauty under masks, just as Swan hides the original beauty of the cantata under garish production. Everything beautiful is doomed to become ugly, whether as a result of age, corrupting influences, or corporate exploitation.
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