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They Paint The Town Red in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) January 21, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood, Musical.

Directed by Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall
Based on Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical

In both forewords to Burton on Burton (the first and second revised editions), Johnny Depp fondly recalls the experiences he had upon meeting the filmmaker and his idiosyncrasies: that moment when he first saw him inside the café after receiving a call that he was being considered for Edward Scissorhands; that quicksand he felt when he was getting all the let-downs of involvement in TV productions; and several years after, when both of them already had their own children, who were now playmates, their pair continues to flourish, not only as personal buddies, but professionally as well — their six fruits of labor in the last seventeen years are just some of the strangest and enticing meals that we could get our tongues into. That Burton is someone that Depp would go to the ends of the earth for — tells us how far this grisly partnership would sail — and we’re certainly there to meet them.

Sweeney Todd‘s subtitle could possibly be “There Will Be Blood” and I’m sure no one would dare object. Burton’s world will not be complete without blood — and darkness — which he mixes with masterly precision like a painter’s palette — creating beautiful strokes, striking imagery, horrifying abstractions, and grim display of colors. His venture to the musical shows how he enjoys taking chances — not only for himself but also for Depp, whose background in music is quite diverse, but not particularly in singing. Had he chosen a different actor, perhaps someone with cut-throat singing voice, then for sure it will fare disparately. Depp not only sings, he acts what he’s singing, he means what he’s saying, and he contorts his face like it’s the most beautiful sight in the world. Musicals are not only about singing — it’s the entire thing. And Depp proves that being an “iconic loner” that he is — that very man whose eccentricity is virtuously inexorable — is where he could fit himself perfectly — and with Burton beside him to realise his potential, I am sure there’s no way he could fail largely in his forthcoming projects.

Sure Leo, it’s not your fault. I almost doze off too — but the flame of the human furnace and the flesh coming out of the grinder are enough to keep me awake. The bent realities of musicals are quite foreign to my senses — I seem not to enjoy them as much as other genres do but this is no time for singling out; westerns could be extremely boring at times too, not to mention guns ‘n horses — but Stephen Sondheim’s songs are terribly terrific. And it’s likely to hear dozens of moviegoers who just left the theatre humming “Not While I’m Around” or “Johanna” or “Pretty Women.” Bear with them — the infection just spread. The most beautiful part for me is when Mrs. Lovett, in a beautiful scenery outside Fleet Street, tells Todd her fantasies, her dreams with him, where she would like to be with him, the prospect of a “happily ever after” — I gasped in awe — those are the few thaumaturgic moments in the film that reached their peak. And have you noticed Todd’s face? Priceless. When the film ends and Todd spills his blood to Lucy, I only thought of one thing which is not related at all to what I’m seeing: when I find time to have my beard shaved, if ever it grows long enough, I’ll make sure my barber won’t be singing. * * *



1. paranggago - January 21, 2008

see I didnt even get to the part where Mrs. Lovett was singing Todd “By the Sea”(?) the first time I saw it. and I agree, that was one great moment indeed! now that I’ve seen the movie in it’s entirety (haha), and at a THX at that, baby! (got my wish!) great great movie!


I was one of those you mentioned leaving the theatre with Sondheim’s songs stuck in my head.

and oh… chills!… just chills when Todd slit his wife’s throat. ugh.

2. lilokpelikula - January 21, 2008

haha ang sosyal — dalawang beses pinanuod. I agree — seeing it in THX is quite different, compared to SM cinemas. The quality of their surround-sound and projectors must be deteriorating. But I assume you’ve seen it first in Festival Mall (tsismis ni Mimay haha).

that first song by Mrs. Lovett, Worst Pies in Town ata — di ko masyadong naintindihan. :D must be part of the character.

3. bittergrace - January 22, 2008

^ayoko yung boses ni helena bonham-carter dun (sa Worst Pies in Town)…parang hindi niya range talaga. haha, anyway, di naman talaga siya singer.

na-LSS rin ako sa Johanna.

And how about Alan Rickman singing? crush na crush ko ang speaking voice niya tapos nung kumanta siya…wala lang…goosebumps.

at wag na tayo manood sa SM cinemas. i will kwento later.

4. lilokpelikula - January 22, 2008

haha ‘kala ko ako lang yung nawirduhan sa parteng yun — sobrang incomprehensible kasi talaga, bilang hindi ako pamilyar dun sa original.

nakakatuwa si alan rickman — hehe pero naaalala ko pa rin siya sa Perfume. Evil!

hala tumirada na naman ba ang mga HIV syringes sa SM? hehe. sige kuwento mo sa’min. :D

5. Harvey - January 24, 2008

I love this movie.

I especially love this bit from “A Little Priest:”

“It’s man devouring man, my dear. So who are we to deny it in here?”

Yes, I have the OST. I even have the one from the original musical.

A much better conversion from musical production to silver screen production than “The Phantom of the Opera,” but I think it lacks the impact of “Moulin Rouge.” Watching it also made me want to look for the closest shop that sells meat pies. Yum.

6. lilokpelikula - January 24, 2008

I enjoyed it, though I wish (this is just wishful thinking I hope you don’t mind) Burton turned it into a three-hour film like the musical and opted not to cut some lines and remove a few songs. But this is Dreamworks and Warner Bros, I know, not Toho.

Wow, burn me that soundtrack!

The impact of Moulin Rouge is undisputable, especially the way Baz Luhrmann cuts almost every fraction of a second, but I think I liked Sweeney Todd better — perhaps the way it supposed to look like a failure — casting actors who don’t sing professionally, not-so-elaborate musical numbers, the sordid ending — but Burton’s creation of atmosphere, in perhaps all of his films, is nothing short of brilliant.

Care to see some thumbs on your pies?

7. Bluebeetle(one) - January 27, 2008

I will probably never (again) go to the Barber’s.
Those places with the white & red candy stick at the entrance like seen in UK (Kent County).

8. lilokpelikula - January 28, 2008

Yeah — so where would you have your hair cut or beard shaved? Haha. We also have those barber signages here. But no one like Sweeney. :D

Merci pour la visite!

9. CatAffonodo - October 31, 2009
10. Northewo - November 3, 2009

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