Sunday, April 6, 2008
Timothy the Bloody
Oh my Gods! I just watched Sweeney Todd, and I think I'm going to have to go back to therapy. It is, without a doubt, the single most graphic, goriest film I have ever seen. There was red paint EVERYWHERE! My girlfriend gouged her eyes out and howled like the Bean Sidhe at the end ... or wait, was that me?
Anyway, with a cast like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman it's hard to go wrong. Except that teaming Rickman with that guy who plays Wormtail is, and will forever be, a reference to Harry Potter. I'm not sure I understood the connection, and I'm not sure the casting director understood the connection, either.
Gothic master Tim Burton, of course, did the direction, and it's got his signature illness written all over it. I was shocked to see such gore from Burton who usually doesn't need to sensationalise his films. This is, on the other hand, opera (and opera of the very first order), and opera is expected to be sensational and spectacular.
Depp plays the part of Sweeney Todd so well, that you find yourself sympathising with him. He has been wronged, and is out for revenge, and because of Depp’s intense portrayal, you believe he should get it. His singing is rife with conviction and single-mindedness, and beautifully portrays the ardent passions of a man overthrown of reason and a slave to his own torment.
Rickman plays the lousy, perverted Judge Turpin a little shyly for my liking. I like my perverts to be dripping with licentious attitude and libidinously hunched, drooling, if possible, over the merest glance at a woman. We need a little something more, I think, to drive home the reality about his relationship with his charge, and I know Rickman is capable of it. But who knew that Alan Rickman could sing? And he does. In a growling bass-baritone that makes you ever more ashamed to have a crush on him. (And in the end, isn’t it the shame you feel over your crush on Rickman that makes it really hot?)
Pretty boy Jamie Campbell Bower (speaking of crushes on men, YUM!) plays the naïve and lovestruck Anthony Hope, and not only because we know the object of his affections is both in the charge of Judge Turpin and the daughter of Sweeney Todd do we really cheer for him, but also because Bower’s interpretation of wide-eyed heroism is so endearing and heartwarming in this blood chilling tale.
Finally, Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Mrs. Lovett so convincingly I never saw it coming. She’s sweet, she’s tender, she’s downtrodden but smart. The perfect Lovett.
Something I hadn't realised before watching this movie is that Sondheim fashioned the story on Moliere's (I think it's Moliere's) "Le Barbiere de Seville" which comes to us more commonly as the opera "Il barbiere di Saviglia" ("The Barber of Seville", in case you're still wondering) by Rossini. The significance of this is two-fold. First, it's why everyone thinks "The Barber of Seville" is a gothic opera, or that Sweeney Todd is the barber of the aforementioned Seville. Second, and much more important, the play by Moliere and the opera by Rossini were very controversial in their times, and were banned in parts of Europe for presenting the revolutionary ideas that the lower class was smarter than the middle class, and more capable in love than the upper class (a very disturbing notion to the aristocracy of Latin cultures). Sweeney Todd is a gothic extrapolation of this theme, whereby the lower class seeks revenge on the middle class for being such anuses.
Anyway, I'm about to fall into a cerebral discussion comparing the Rossini to the Sondheim, and if all else fails (including my mind) I may just do that in order to gloss over the memory of blood spurting from the throats of various London gentlemen. Let me, instead, give a brief overview of the highlights.
The cockroach in “The Worst Pies in London.”
The shaving contest between Pirelli (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) and Todd.
The triumph in the asylum. (I was screaming with joy!).
The extremely gory death of Judge Turpin. (Come on, you knew it was gonna happen.)
The extremely gory death of Sweeney Todd. (You also knew THAT was gonna happen, so don’t bitch.)