Sunday, January 06, 2008

Notes on "Sweeney Todd"

1. I was a bit apprehensive about seeing this one. With Tim Burton films, you can pretty much predict what the costumes, hair, color palette, and general look will be before you see them. He definitely sticks to a certain look and tone. On the other hand, here he had to stray from the usual Danny Elfman score and make Johnny Depp sing. Not to mention the fact that Tim Burton is generally brilliant if a bit repetitive.

2. Oddly enough, more of the original play comes through than the Tim Burton touches. It's more like a Sondheim movie than a Burton one. Maybe we should say that it looks like Tim Burton and plays like Stephen Sondheim. Therefore, it's more satisfyingly adult that one might expect.

3. For the first time that I can remember, there's nothing really special about Johnny Depp's performance here. He sings, slashes, and scowls, and that's about it. I realize that he was trying to get his first singing part right (that's not him singing in Crybaby). And yet, he usually does more than acquit himself well, which is what he does here.

4. One last gripe- CGI looks rather fake on the big screen. There area scenes on the London docks that look like the actors are walking though one of those green screens. The usual Burton swooping camera through the city looks like a video game. Overall, CGI has to heft to it: it seems disembodied.

5. The best performance here is given by Helena Bonham Carter. Her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett is salty, maternal, devious, witty, and earthy.

6. The set-design is great. I love the old rippled glass panes in the windows.

7. In the end, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is pretty much the same Grand Guignol musical melodrama that it always was. They cut out the ghost chorus, but otherwise it's the same darkly brilliant story that it was in Sondheim's original musical. That's all for the best. Aside from a few gripes, it's well worth seeing.


Holly said...

How odd. Twice in one morning, inside of 5 minutes, I'm confronted by the name Guignol. (The other was in Teller's blog entry discussing his upcoming production of MacBeth in NJ.)

Rufus said...

Synchronicity. I was annoyed because my spell check was telling me that there 'aint no such animal.