Wednesday, January 09, 2008
The creative genius that is Tim Burton continues to plumb the hidden "Depp's" of his onscreen muse in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; the stylish, gory movie also features the abundant talents of Burton's wife Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Sacha Baron Cohen as well as newcomers Jamie Campbell Bower and Edward Sanders.
Stephen Sondheim's 1979 stage musical had been begging for a cinematic treatment since its debut, but as usual delayed gratification has been its own reward; having just come from seeing it, I can think of no other director working today whose style suits the story being told like Burton's. Able assistance from veteran production designer Dante Ferretti recreated a vision of Victorian London as macabre as the source material inhabiting it. Squeamish as I am - and this movie offers plenty of squeam - I am simply unable to look away from really good art direction; so there I sat, transfixed, as throat after throat was slit.
Johnny Depp seems to have done the impossible in creating a performance both low-key and bravura, often at the same time; his Sweeney is a man bent on revenge for the wrongs done to him, and since he's already dead inside his crimes don't unsettle his conscience in the least. Nor should they bother those of the audience either; it's not much of a spoiler to say that only the innocent survive in this movie, and they are a very select group indeed.
This may be the best chance Depp has had yet to nab himself an Oscar, and Burton and Bonham Carter as well; given how enthusiastically the Academy has embraced the re-emergent musical genre in recent years, I don't imagine even Sweeney Todd himself would slit my throat for saying so.
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