Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Director:  Tim Burton
Cast:  Johnny DeppHelena Bonham CarterAlan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen
Plot:  Based on the hit Broadway musical which tells the infamous story of Benjamin Barker, a.k.a Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett.

Genre:  Drama / Horror / Musical
Awards:  Won 1 Oscar - Best Art Direction.  Nom. for 2 Oscars - Best Leading Actor, Best Costume Design
Runtime:  116min
Rating:  M18 for graphic bloody violence.

Tim Burton.  A name synonymous with 'Johnny Depp', 'strange', and 'visualist'. A one-of-a-kind filmmaker whose diverse works include Big Fish, Corpse Bride, Batman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Ed Wood.  With an eye for detail, and a mind full of fresh artistic ideas, Burton is one of the most creative directors working today. 

Sweeney Todd is his latest release, a dark musical tale of revenge and love that has all the weirdly-artistic ingredients that Burton would have relished using.  Before I start raving about Sweeney Todd, let me examine the flaws. 

First, the casting of Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall is a mistake (though they are generally good).  Why?  For a couple of seconds, I thought I was revisiting Harry Potter all over again.  It took more than one third of the film before I finally saw Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford instead of Severus Snape and Peter Pettigrew. 

Second, some parts occasionally remind me of Beowulf's stop-motion capture technique.  Johnny Depp and Co. tend to look digitalized at certain angles, so I had to constantly remind myself that I was watching real people.

Now for the sweet stuff.  The character Sweeney Todd is a conflicted, vengeful one that is perfected by Depp, whose performance is aptly described as 'mesmerizingly tragic'.  His opposite number, Helena Bonham Carter, complements Depp’s character; some of the best moments in the film occur when both of them are in the same frame, singing their tortured hearts out. 

The music and songs in Sweeney Todd are so well-edited into the narrative structure that not for one moment seems unnatural.  Burton also captures the sullen, gloomy mood with aplomb. The color is mostly desaturated, almost a throwback to the bygone eras of black-and-white films; the composition of each shot (set decoration and art direction) is clearly Burtonish. 

Sweeney Todd is violent and gory, making David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises look tame in comparison.  There are flinching moments, but hey, it's bloody good fun.  Sweeney Todd will find its way into my Top 10 list without a hiccup. 


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