SWEENEY TODD: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Posted: Sat, Jan 12 2008 - 15:29 PM
To call Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Tim Burton's gothic masterpiece, is to sound both obvious and uninformed. After all, how many of his films have received that very description? It could be argued that most of his films are gothic masterpieces (Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, to name only a few). But in adapting Broadway's ode to a murderous barber exacting revenge on those who destroyed his family, Burton has found a perfect marriage for his beautifully dark sensibilities.
I was not familiar with the 1979 Broadway musical adaptation of this old, sordid tale (by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler), but as a fan of Burton's films, my expectations were high. They were also exceeded. Given its 19th century London setting, it reminded me of Oliver! as produced by Hammer Films, where Bill Sykes is the hero.
Johnny Depp (in his sixth collaboration with Burton) is outstanding as the title character, whose skills with a straight razor lead to the most poetic bloodletting I've ever seen on screen. Helena Bonham Carter (Burton's wife) is also excellent as Mrs. Lovett, the woman who works in the shop beneath Todd, and sells the "worst meat pies in town." (At least until she and Todd strike up an idea that solves both of their problems.) Neither Depp or Carter have "Broadway" voices, but I thought they both did fine intoning the often operatic songs. Also offering fine support are Alan Rickman (as an evil judge, oozing his trademark Hans Gruber menace), and Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat) as a pompous competitor.
But the true star of this film (other than Burton himself) is the production design by Dante Ferretti. This film is so gorgeous to look at (even when the crimson geysers start to spray, and boy do they), the story and performances seem like frosting on an already delectable cake.
Expect Oscar nods across the board (. . . that is, if we even have an Academy Awards Ceremony this year due to the writer's strike), for this marvelous, haunting film, which is, indeed, Tim Burton's gothic masterpiece.
A bloody good time.
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Category: Movie Reviews