Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Mr. T.

Last night, Patrick and I went to see Sweeney Todd. I had looked forward to it. I love the musical, and I enjoy depictions of gloomy Victorian London. I squeal over Johnny Depp, and I like Helena Bonham Carter even though I take her less seriously than I used to. (I blame a friend of mine who refers to her a GNILF: a Gnome I’d Like to Fuck.)

Tim Burton’s movie is so dark it’s light—it shimmers with malevolence. It seems to achieve this at the expense of the play’s exuberance; the film feels a little wooden sometimes, especially during songs like “A Little Priest.” Part of the musical’s witchcraft stems from the way it gets you to cheer for murder and cannibalism: Here’s Patti LuPone and George Hearn (the original Sweeney) performing “A Little Priest,” for example.

“What is that? It's fop. Finest in the shop. And we have some shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd on top! And I've just begun-- Here's the politician, so oily it's served with a doily, have one!”

Scholars argue that one of the consequences of Romanticism was the startling conclusion that the human imagination, in all of its glorious potency, could create visions much worse than any Lucifer. Burton’s Sweeney Todd strengthens this claim; I like it the way I like a really good nightmare.

It will take some time for me to forget Sweeney’s blood-streaked face as it appears near the end of the film. He is either unaware of the blood or uninterested in wiping it off.

People are a wicked, wicked lot.