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And who are we to deny it in here?

Props to mannoftalent for last night's shindig of meat pies and merriment before and after seeing Sweeney Todd in a packed movie theatre. To be brief: God, that's good! ;->

To be less brief, it looks absofrickinlutely amazing, but of course that's a "duh." I mean, it's Tim Burton does Victorian London with lots of people getting killed. Recipe for visualgasm right there. The fog is practically a character of its own, the streets feel absolutely real and slightly askew, and that, my friends, is how you do near-monochrome with shocks of color. (And I do mean shocks -- there is no shortage of spurty red stuff, and I noticed a lot of cringing going on around me.)

The Depp is SCARY AS ALL HELL. No lie. I'm not even going to bother going into more detail, just command you to go see for yourself if you haven't already.

Helena Bonham Carter continues to be too pretty for, like, Earth, let alone Mrs. Lovett. And I so didn't care, because she's cheerful and besotted and pragmatic and twisted and a perfect delight from beginning to end. (Also, I want pretty much everything she wore, but that's not exactly a surprise. :: bows to Colleen Atwood :: )

Anthony and Johanna are pretty and moony and pathetic as a pair of half-drowned puppies. They slip away offscreen (thus not being around to witness Toby killing Todd), and I'm thinking "Awwwww, aren't they cute? They're so screwed." Johanna has had a bit of a spunkectomy (yes, there was some to remove... not much, but some... when you're a soprano, you take what you can find and run with it) and is no less traumatized at the end than we're used to, but she doesn't get to kill Fogg, which makes me sad. But Anthony's "I leave you to the mercy of your 'children'"... pretty much makes up for that part. Yeah.

Speaking of Toby, the kid is fantastic. And you have not had your heart wrenched until you have heard an actual child sing "Not While I'm Around." And he gets one of the film's most striking departures with the ending. No white hair, no raving and grinding. He comes off perfectly cold and rational (and, no doubt intentionally, Todd-like) as he emerges from the sewer, slips up behind Todd, quietly slashes his throat, and calmly walks out. And for a kid from his background, truthfully, that makes a helluva lot more sense. Life is cheap in his world. Mrs. Lovett was something special, and from his vantage point Todd destroyed her.

Judge Turpin, I shall leave to those more passionate in their admiration of Alan Rickman than I. ;-) He's a fine actor, he did a fine job, and the "come into my parlor" bit with Anthony chills the blood right proper.

The final image of Todd, still sitting up, bleeding out over Lucy's corpse? Dude, that will stay with you.

I was a little worried at first about how they would handle Lucy and the reveal. A lot of her Beggarwoman appearances are cut, and Todd barely sees her at all, which helps with the suspension of disbelief that he fails to recognize her until it's too late. The first time we see her is the exchange with Anthony outside the Judge's house, telling him who Johanna is, and I was worried they were going to go that far out of their way to hide her face all the way through, making it too obvious that she's Somebody Significant. But it got subtler after that, while still not making her too recognizable if you don't know.

"Epiphany" is über-cool on its own merits, but the segue out of it, when he's kneeling on the floor of the barbershop in that triumphant pose, and Mrs. Lovett is all "Yeah, whatever, love, now about this business model of ours..."? BWAH! Too. Perfect.

"A Little Priest" is, I'm pretty sure, the only time I've witnessed spontaneous applause breaking out for a musical number in the middle of a movie. It was that cool. And "By The Sea" is even better, just for sheer cracktastic hilarity. Mrs. Lovett bubbling and burbling on in her cockeyed idea of domestic bliss, completely unfazed by Todd sitting or standing there like a big sullen catatonic lump, just gets funnier and funnier as it goes along.

I had heard that they cut the Ballad, and was stumped as to how on earth you get that score to hang together without it. The answer, of course, is that they didn't really cut it; they just didn't have a chorus singing any of it. If you didn't know, you would think it was just an instrumental theme that goes all the way through because that's how it's supposed to be. If you do know, it's a little distracting, because the brain is trained to expect someone to start singing ANY TIME NOW and they never do. It's like two and a half hours of foreplay and then getting dropped on your ass, and I miss it in the sense that most of my favorite lyrics are actually in the Ballad sections. But Burton is simply telling the story in a way that doesn't require, and in fact would be hindered by, the Greek-chorus frame.

Weird artifact of that choice: Anthony Stewart Head popping up for a one-line (spoken) cameo. I'm presuming they filmed and recorded at least some of the Ballad sections, and am hopeful we'll see them on the DVD, not because I think it was wrong not to include them, but just because I want to see them.

You'll note that I haven't mentioned the singing yet. Yes, that was intentional. It's already a big controversy, and I'm no doubt going to be sick to death of it before the week is out even if I actively avoid it.

My opinion of how singing is handled in movie musicals continues to evolve, but I'm thinking of it more as its own entity all the time. Not only is a movie not going to sound like the stage production it's based on, I'm increasingly convinced it shouldn't. At the simplest level, just like on-camera acting has to be pulled way way in and look more like real-life face-to-face behavior, movie singing needs to sound more like speech. That's a bit of an oversimplification, but I'm not in the mood to go into all the nuances and other elements at play right now.

The point is, no, I wouldn't put any of these people on stage and have them sing like this. But that wasn't the job they were being asked to do, and I am perfectly fine with how every one of them sang as I sat in a movie theatre. Some of the choices -- the vicious whispering in "Epiphany," HBC's demented-little-girl take on everything -- did things I never would have expected, and yes, I mean that in a good way. On another important note, the orchestration is, for the most part, balanced really well to adjust for the singing style. (In contrast to, say, PotO -- as much as I loved it and still do as much because it's one of my bulletproof fandoms as anything else, I admit, I do admit I listen to it and go "When the voices are smaller, perhaps it would behoove you not to double the size of the orchestra.")

Oh, and, yes, there was a woman in the row behind me who said "I didn't know it was a musical" as she got up to leave. I'm still scratching my head a bit over that particular marketing decision. But she didn't sound displeased, so that's something.

In conclusion: I have meat pies in my fridge, a song in my heart, and every intention of going again. :-)

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
exapno
Dec. 22nd, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
Nice summary! :) As well as a fun evening! Was great to meet you :)
- xap

Edited at 2007-12-22 06:01 pm (UTC)
wiliqueen
Dec. 22nd, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
You too! And I realized on the way home that my weekends in January are chock-full of Elisir rehearsals, so no house-filk for me. :-( Hopefully next time...
quasievil_bunny
Dec. 22nd, 2007 08:53 pm (UTC)
Just saw it first thing this morning (couldn't catch the midnight show & work the next day, and had prior plans Friday night). Exactly what you said. I only now need to see it again, uh.... maybe a dozen more times on the Big Screen. *g*

After all the palaver over the amount of the Red Stuff, it wasn't as much as I had expected. I think it was the right amount to show. What about the title didn't folks twig?

All in all, I am so happy that it has actually exceeded my expectations. :D


wiliqueen
Dec. 23rd, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)
Mine too. My reservations were mostly about the singing, and as it turned out I had no problem. Everything else was just wow.
studiesinlight
Dec. 23rd, 2007 12:49 am (UTC)
I'm wondering whether I should wait until it's out on DVD, and can be tamed on my TV, for all the ick stuff. An alternative is to perhaps find someone who can tell me when to open my eyes. :-)

My manager's ten-year-old is begging to see it (and yes, he knows it's a musical). She's extremely leery, as she should be, I'm sure. I suggested just getting the soundtrack and skipping the movie, as a first option, but that if he didn't let up the requests, it might be okay for him to see it with her if he agrees to read encyclopedia articles about the history of the story first and gets utterly, utterly spoiled so there are no surprises. Would even that be too much, though?
wiliqueen
Dec. 23rd, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)
Tough call. I would probably have been okay with it at ten, although I wouldn't have had the opportunity to find out, because there was no question of my seeing anything rated R, full stop. I definitely wouldn't take any kid without seeing the whole movie myself first.

Turning it into a research project is a good idea, and I would add in learning about the effects tech. All the murders are very graphic, so the more he knows about the fact that he's seeing fake skin sliced and fake blood run through tubes, the less likely he is to have nightmares about it. It's also just really cool stuff to know, if he's the kind of kid likely to be impressed by the number of very smart and skilled people required to make it happen.

The easiest/best way to prep him for the story, of course, would be to have him see the stage version. I don't know if the film of the Len Cariou/Angela Lansbury tour (the one they used to run on PBS) is on DVD, but the semi-staged concert with George Hearn and Patti LuPone is, and can probably be rented. There's no mistaking what's going on, but within the constraints of live performance, where people can't shower before the next scene and you don't want to leave any wet spots on the stage for them to slip on.

As for when to cover your eyes, I was about to say it would be tricky. But as I think about it, all the murders are quite broadly telegraphed. None of them surprise the audience, only the victim, so you should have plenty of time to duck. Pirelli, the Beadle, and the Judge are particularly violent. The montage during the "Johanna" reprise is very understated in terms of the movement itself, but the actual cuts and the bodies dropping through the trapdoor into the bakehouse are quite graphic and straight-on.

Edited at 2007-12-24 06:10 pm (UTC)
lifelongfling
Dec. 23rd, 2007 07:19 am (UTC)
Weird artifact of that choice: Anthony Stewart Head popping up for a one-line (spoken) cameo. I'm presuming they filmed and recorded at least some of the Ballad sections, and am hopeful we'll see them on the DVD, not because I think it was wrong not to include them, but just because I want to see them.

I'm thinking (and hoping) this is the case. Back when production was still on-going, Anthony was listed as "Ballad ghost" on IMDb but now he's no longer listed at all so they must have filmed some and then cut it. But it was fun to see him for all of 2 seconds.
wiliqueen
Dec. 23rd, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
Ghost, huh? That would be interesting...
kevenn
Dec. 31st, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)
We saw this movie on the Sunday before Christmas. I really liked it a lot. The blodd was a little cringe-worthy, but I thought the acting was phenomenal.

As usual, we had crappy audience experience. This 20/30 couple borught one of their grandmas with them. The y stomped in late during the previews, munched loudly on food and talked throughout.

After one preview, grandma exclaimed loudly, "That doens't look like a movie *I* want to see! It looks like it has too much gratuitous violence and action."

Ray and I turned to each other and were like "Bitch, you're in the wrong damn movie!"

Later her cell phone went off during the movie, and she had no idea how to silence it. Eventually one fo the people she was with took it and turned off the ringer. We also had to shush them at one point. It worked for all of five minutes.
wiliqueen
Dec. 31st, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear God/dess. {{ sympathy }}

We went on the first day right by Northwestern, so it was packed to the gills and virtually everyone was goth, theatre geek, fannish, or some combination of the above. Wish you could have been there. :-/
iingaartist
Jan. 15th, 2008 06:08 am (UTC)
Hi. I finally got to see Sweeney Todd today. (Been trying to arrange it with others for weeks and finally gave up and just took myself to a matinee after my job interview ... because after a job interview you deserve a little singing and bloodletting.)

My entire knowledge of Sweeney Todd before seeing the film was "Soylent Green is people! with singing! and costumes!"

I instantly said to myself, I bet the beggar woman is the wife. Thus the hidden face apparently was a bit too obvious (and given her make-up they could have gotten away with a face shot, I think). However, that didn't affect my enjoyment of the film at all.

For all the warnings that I got from people about how gory the film was, I think the cockroaches grossed me out more than any of the blood.
wiliqueen
Jan. 15th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh, yeah, the bugs! I can't believe I forgot about that -- they got more cringing from the audience in general than anything else!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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