Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd"

This evening I was suddenly compelled to go out and see "Sweeney Todd", and was glad that I did. On a scale of art alone, it's visually fascinating. Even though the color palette was of the predominantly indigo and sepia tones that Burton (and many these days) often uses, in this case it enhances the era portrayed and wasn't annoying. The sets were unique and displayed an antique grittiness that made you subliminally feel the bleakness of London at that time, as Dickens portrayed it so well. The pie shop was worn and dusty, with its rusty cast iron, yellowed tiles, and chunky wooden furniture. White pristine stonework around the Judge's house points out the protective wall separating the privileged inside, from the not-so-privileged on the streets. All the windows that the camera often pans through are the warped glass of that age. Todd's attic barber shop has a wall which is almost entirely made of these warped windows, that look out over the world of London that he despises, which is how Todd is looking at life -- through his warped sensibilities that have been twisted by hate of his fellow man. The outdoor shots in the streets and alleys have a tight claustrophobic bricked-in feel that convey how trapped the lower classes must have felt in London at that time. The costumes are interesting as well, not necessarily completely historical, but with a ragged Goth aesthetic to them where accuracy might be missing.

The film of course possessed the feel of some familiar Burton predecessors, such as 'Edward Scissorhands', 'Sleepy Hollow', and 'Corpse Bride', albeit in a less abstract manner. It also had some of the ancient richness of 'Labyrinth' sets. In fact, in some songs Depp sounded a lot like David Bowie in 'Labyrinth', but that was fine. The singing was not an issue to me, just the visuals. The sets were extremely unique and artistically a natural progression for Burton, after his previous projects via his style. He manages to portray a dreary old London era in a new way that allows viewers to melt into the sets and scenery of another time, regardless of the grim subject matter, retelling the almost 200 year old legend of the demon barber for a new century.

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