Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Almost a Review: Sweeney Todd

"Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd
His skin was pale and his eye was odd
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard of again
He trod a path that few have trod
Did Sweeney Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

What a marvelous dark tragedy, this tale of blood soaked revenge, greed, and madness. This is not the sort of movie for those without a macabre sense of humor or the weak of stomach. Indeed it put me a bit off my feed, though a friend reported a perverse desire to have a meat pie after seeing it. I think I'll sleep with one eye open around him. (ha, ha)

I think after listening to the music from the original Sondheim production that the movie would have been improved by some of the big chorus numbers like the one I quote above. Perhaps not all of them, but one to open the movie might have made the opening credits more interesting. But the music was lovely, funny, and the setting marvelously dirty. Like Chicago it takes full advantage of the set and effect tricks unavailable to stage productions rather than just pointing a camera at the same sort of sets that could build on Broadway. Plus everything is marvelously desaturated except the great messy gouts of blood that are both gruesome and almost comical.

Also very easy on the eyes and ears is the new face of young Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope. He's lovely in a young Irish/English way and I hope that he's good at doing more than just looking soulful and singing as he does marvelously in this film. Johnny Depp is perfectly suited to the titular role and despite not having a huge voice his singing seems just right for his character. All the music and singing is wonderful, though perhaps a touch loud. Not going to replace my cast recording of Lansbury and Cariou, but hearing it again is not at all an unpleasant prospect.

I like it and recommend it to people who like weird and dark movies similar to Fargo or Little Shop of Horrors (without the happy ending). If you are such a person, give it a chance. If you're much more of a light musical fan, you probably will want to give it a pass. The gore, filth, and evil will probably put off people who like their musicals more in a light Music Man mode.

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