Monday, November 17, 2008

Late Night Review #2

Chromaggia - Sarah Brightman

I have something to admit (other than turning to Paris Hilton's show every week, not helping at all): I'm a big Sarah Brightman fan. I've always been. I grew up in a house that played Opera and Classical music during lazy afternoons. I played classical piano for eleven years. I guess I naturally gravitated to the pop-opera that Brightman produced when I was a lass in the 90's without much musical background other than the local classic rock station.

Sarah Brightman is a funny sort of thing. She stopped being cool to me once I grew up and realized the rest of the world doesn't really recognize her (plus she does all these Christmas recordings... shudder). She's not really what all the kids listen to in the pop culture sinkhole that is high school.

But Darren Lynn Bousman saw hope in what I had given up on. He cast the original Christine in his gothic wonderland "Repo: The Genetic Opera." I didn't know until recently seeing the trailer, and I pretty much flipped my shit. She's singing her usual rock-opera but now around grisly gore and legal murder. Her corsets are not sky blue but black, on her head is velvet hood instead of a crown of crystals, and her eyes glimmer with digital machinery.

Here's my former favorite star, stepping into my world. I'm not much of a goth (can't afford the accessories), but I have always been by far more comfortable in black. It is undeniably satisfying to see proof that this faded star, pushed to the back of musical culture by her own obsession for traditionalism, is now willing to step into a new era. Sarah Brightman is cool again. She loves horror just like I do. And I'm for the first time in a long time proud to say that, yes, I am a fan of Sarah Brightman. I actually have all her albums back to when she first sang with Andrea Bocelli. I'm a total dork. I've even seen her in concert. Yes, I went with my mom and was surrounded by old women. I admit it. 

The world she builds around her is really quite funny. Her persona is swelled into something of a goddess. She performs wearing tiaras and dresses with a train the length of the stage. It has to be theatrically moved by twenty plainclothed dancers. She's always got those dancers... bowing. She's lifted on wires 90% if the time, 30 feet above the stage, as if her body along with her voice can defy gravity (she's lifted on wires in "Repo" too and I started laughing). She's also a fan of the giant swing thing as well. Basically, going to a concert of hers is equivalent to going to see the Dali Lama or something. You might as well walk up to her and kiss her feet and ask for a blessing. It's kind of hysterical how grandiose she tries to make herself. What's amazing is that in "Repo", she's the same star she always was. She's just a dark princess instead of an angel. Actually, in "Repo", the dark princess fantasia does everything to bolster her charm through the roof: she is, along with Anthony Stewart Head (who I could watch for fifteen hours and not get tired of) the saving grace of the movie. 

It's too bad she's not onscreen often and is mostly just an image plastered on walls advertising "Blind Mag in concert". She only uses her awesome mechanical eyes once, which are totally sweet and an element that can only be achieved in film rather than onstage. That's where "Repo" kind of misses out. I liked it a lot, but it was rather weak. It really improved in the last half hour, where the songs became much more memorable and the theater actors had more screen time, and the drama finally cranked to eleven. Other than that the movie's budget was showing, it felt kind of small and underperformed. A lot of blame is to be put on the original story and music: I haven't seen the original opera but it often sounded clunky and vulgar, and english opera sounds bad enough, they didn't try so hard to make english sound any better to the ears with well placed wording. It felt like many numbers were underfilmed. They needed more blocking and choreography to make them seem grandiose rather than lots of intercutting steadicam shots (an entire musical number took place in the backseat of a towncar. The best I can say about it is that it sucked). 

And about story, the film medium simply asks for a different one than is required on stage. I know nothing can be done about it, but when I heard the movie's fantastic backdrop, a dystopian future where the Corporation can legalize murder, I knew there's a much more social story here than the personal one the stage has to focus on. I found myself asking big questions: isn't there more than one Repo Man? What about underground resistance groups? Where's the government? If this movie is about a world where organs are reposessed, can we focus on that rather than this father/daughter overdue love triangle thing because this is the director of SAW movies and I wanna see my main character in that predicament? To be fair, Blind Mag IS in this predicament but you know, she's unfortunately a minor character, which kinda sucks. Its hard to change original source material, but I'm sorry, this felt kinda diluted all across the board. There were opportunities to make the film as bold as the Blind Mag's eyeshadow makeup but those were missed for the most part, as the movie was saddled with backstory about this love affair for a chick we only see in grainy holograms.

It sounds like I didn't enjoy myself at all, but in fact it was still a good time and I encourage everyone to go because there's plenty of fun to be had. Also, I encourage all support for this kind of alternative movie-making. It's definitely something new and different and I'm all for that. The songs do get quite catchy and the costume and set dec are awesome. As stated earlier, Anthony Stewart Head is positively kickass and when he and Sarah Brightman are actually together for the five seconds that they are it's like Robert Deniro and Al Pacino in "Heat". When you see that electricity you kind of realize what the rest of the movie is missing.

Plus, Paris Hilton's face falls off. That's something I won't see on MTV.

The song above, "Chromaggia" is the only opera-like song in "Repo", but it is also the best.

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