22 December 2007

attend the tale

it's no secret that when it comes to Sondheim I'm daft. nor that I consider "Sweeney Todd" to be his masterpiece. since Harold Prince's monumental original staging   I've seen some 5 or 6 productions including the chilling performance of Brian Stokes Mitchell at Kennedy Center & real life husband & wife George Ball & Amanda McBroom on the west coast. I always find something new in the work.

when I heard it was to become a film I had a Mylanta moment. Broadway rarely survives the transition to cinema. & this is a complex & difficult piece. directors & cast members were in flux. finally that amazing team of Tim Burton -- who I consider an important filmmaker -- & Johnny Depp -- easily the best film actor of his generation -- were in place. but still   they were going to muck abt with a classic.

my initial viewing of the motion picture gave me mixd feelings abt almost every aspect. let's start with the cast. picking nonsingers was a risk that doesn't work. Depp has some powerful moments. he acts the part well. but having heard so many wonderful singers in the role it's difficult to fully embrace his Sweeney. the part was written for a baritone. Depp sings it as a tenor. this is a major flaw. the original range supports the gravity of the character. when Depp's voice slides off in those glorious arias the performance stumbles.

what can I say abt Helena Bonham Carter. we all have people whose physicality repulses us. I don't like looking at her. that monobrow & pinch of a face. I'd have trouble casting her in anything. maybe one of Oz's flying monkeys. at one time Imedela Staunton was set to play Mrs. Lovett & I was so looking forward to that. but Burton chose his mistress instead & I was immediately disappointd. however I must say that when she actd HBC was better than I was expecting. that sd   her inability to vocalize destroys what cd've been a major performance.

I cd write much more but I'm still digesting. it wasn't a horrid experience at all. it was better than many directors cd've pulld off but it wasn't as good as it deserves to be.


richard lopez said...

i've not yet seen the film but the reviews i've been reading echo yr own concerns that depp, brilliant actor that he is, really can't sing. neither can bonham carter, who does look like an old pug, but i'd rather look at her than say julia roberts whose appeal eludes me.

but what about the photography, the way color has been leeched out of the film, or the story as it translates to screen?

even so, this is a movie i'm looking forward to seeing.

Alex Gildzen said...

Richard -- the photography & sets are award-worthy (altho I think the film too dark for Hollywood to honor).

does the story translate? the audience I was part of actually applaud'd at the end so I guess that indicates it does.

Montgomery Maxton said...

i loved it. all the queens i went with (including a Bette Midler knows her someone) and a Broadway actor, both loved it more than i did and that's saying a lot because i loved it, esp the end where he shove (ah!) into the (ah, hot!)