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