And in mere moments my mood went from easygoing, happy-go-lucky gal to weepy sad-sack. Thoughts raced through my mind. “Maybe I’m reading this wrong.” “Why am I so crushed?” “I can never watch Phantom of the Paradise/Sisters/Eaten Alive (not that I’d want to anyway) ever again.”
What a strange thing to think. “I can never watch these films again.” An actor’s status, so to speak, has never caused me to stop viewing their films before. I didn’t stop watching Rear Window. I didn’t burn my copy of Poltergeist. So why now? Why this irrational and, let’s face it, childlike response to the news of Mr. Finley’s death? I think it’s because Phantom of the Paradise changed my life.
PofP is a film like none other. It’s weaving together of timeless tales, updated and set to an amazing score is truly transcendent. For me, Finley is the face of that film. He is Winslow Leach. He becomes the awkward singer/song writer who is used and broken and tossed aside. PofP is a great film and that has as much to do with Finley’s performance as it does De Palma’s direction and Paul Williams’ score. Now a piece of a puzzle that fit together so perfectly is gone. And I’m left selfishly pondering my relationship with the film.
Last year (almost to the day) I attended a screening of Phantom at BAM in Brooklyn. Finley was present and took some questions. I was charmed by his humor, thoughtfulness, and the obvious fun he had talking about the film. He was a nice man. That night I did a stupid thing. I attached my feelings for an actor talking candidly about his work, and his life, to his films. I suppose that is why I cry for a man I didn’t know. He brought so much joy. Instead of shunning his body of work I should be glad it lingers on…
Here’s a blurry picture I took at the BAM event. It’s been on my phone for a year.