*** Official SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Sean Laughter, Dec 3, 2007.

  1. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    I think the days of everyone loathing movie musicals are gone, or at least are on vacation for a while - so long as the material and score are of a certain style.

    Hairspray has that nice 60's sound, with enough of a hint of modern pop, and is an overall feel-good enough show that it was a decent hit. It got away being unabashedly a musical without having to make the musical numbers overtly "fantasies" in someone's head.

    I can't see Sweeney Todd being a hit or bringing in huge box office, unless the teenage girl contingent just can't get enough of Depp looking all emo goth. It's a dark, violent musical that's rated R. The material certainly doesn't have any of the cheese associated with movie musicals (or what the public that doesn't frequent live theater associates with musicals in general). As I've said before, it's certainly an acquired Sondheim taste.

    The musical numbers you can hear on the website don't sound bad, but some of the behind-the-scenes stuff I've seen of Depp in the studio recording the songs seemed kind of lifeless. Leaving me wonder who the music director was giving him some feedback. I'm reminded of one of the extras on the Hairspray Blu-Ray (I guess it's on the DVD too), where Marc Shaiman was telling one of the actors they were being too reticent in the studio and that when it came time to act the scene they'd hate to feel restrained by the track that was recorded in the studio. Perhaps that is the characterization Depp was going for from the beginning, but this seemingly less manic Sweeney is certainly something I'm going to have to see to judge properly. If it's a nice gradual progression from reserved to manic it can work, as I do sometimes feel people that play him start him out far too crazy and insane right at the beginning of the piece.

    In any event, we'll see. I'm glad the material is getting the respect it deserves and isn't being toned down for a PG-13 rating. Anyone producing this piece should know what they were getting into from the get-go.

    For future Sondheim movies though, maybe the success of "Enchanted" will get someone to do "Into the Woods" next.
     
  2. Chris Will

    Chris Will Supporting Actor

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    Well, I watched the clips on the website and my fear seems to be coming true. Depp can't sing at all, this will kill the movie for me. I just don't like the style of his singing in the vids and think it will hurt the movie.
     
  3. DavidPla

    DavidPla Cinematographer

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    I guess I see it completely differently. I think Depp sounds great! I LOVE the raspy in his voice, the hurt, the anger. This is in my opinion what has been missing from the stage show for so many years. From what I've seen so far, Depp is better than any Sweeney Todd performed I've seen.
     
  4. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    Sweeney can be sung in many different styles, IMO. In a very disciplined manner or not. If it's not going to be sung in a disciplined or trained voice though, it had better have some really good acting carrying the context of the songs though to make it work.

    Alot of this is personal opinion I suppose, because I really have never liked George Hearn in the role, vocally anyway, but many people seem to swear by him.

    Depp seems alot closer to Michael Cerveris in style, though Cerveris seems to be more overtly emotional and angry vocally than Depp seems to be. My fear is that, from what I've heard so far, Sweeney just sounds indifferent in Depp's interpretation.
     
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now designated the Official Discussion Thread for "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street". Please, post all comments, links to outside reviews, film and box office discussion items to this thread.

    All HTF member film reviews of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" should be posted to the http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/...ew-thread.html.

    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


    Crawdaddy
     
  6. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Supporting Actor

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    I saw it yesterday. Not being a huge Tim Burton fan, I was not surprised by my reaction to the movie. Overall, I five it a 7.5.

    Why not more? Well, for one, I found it rather static for a musical. Some scenes, for example the NOTHING'S GONNA HURT YOU scene, reminded me of THE WIZ in how static they are, the camera and the editing never dancing with the music as they should in a musical, and the overall effect never quite becoming visceral enough.

    Depp and Bonham Carter are, as I expected, adequate but not spectacular. Then again, I'm one of those people who found Angela Lansbury's tragic-comic turn as Mrs. Lovett unforgettable, and it was hard to adjust to Bonham Carter's underplayed, icy Mrs. Lovett. I thought she brought her character down way too much, if that makes any sense.

    The rest of the cast is very good and the production design, as one would expect from Burton, is impeccable.
     
  7. Chris Will

    Chris Will Supporting Actor

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    Not trying to be rude but, from this comment, I guess you haven't scene many dramatic musicals (on stage or screen). Dancing is not required IMO. Les Mis, Phantom Of The Opera and Miss Saigon are great examples of musicals with very little to no dancing in them.

    I haven't seen Sweeney Todd yet but, after listening to the soundtrack a few times I have warmed up to Depp's singing and am looking forward to see this.
     
  8. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Supporting Actor

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    Seems like you misinterpreted my intended metaphor that a STATIC (i.e. stationary) camera does not work well, in my opinion, with screen musicals, where the camera should "dance" and the editing "punctuate" that "dance", even when there's no dance on the screen. I'm not trying to speak in riddles. While ST has some moments where the camera work seems to resonate to the music, on many occasions it doesn't.

    And for the record, I see as many musicals on stage and screen as I can get to, and I'm a huge fan of the genre.
     
  9. DavidPla

    DavidPla Cinematographer

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    What's odd about the example you chose is that "Nothing's Gonna Harm You" is a lulaby so to have the camera moving around defeats the purpose of the scene. It's supposed to be soft, caring, slow and soft so that when it is later sung in the sewers it counters being dark and scary. For a scene that dances with the music look no further than the "Epiphany" scene or the Perelli scene.
     
  10. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    The basic characterization Carter used is what most people playing the part nowadays go for. Understated, dark, and nefarious when appropriate. I think it has lot to do with the production design (the movie included) many modern productions tend to go with.

    I saw the movie last night, and enjoyed it, though I feel it has some problems. As I feared, Depp seemed a little flat in his characterization, only getting really animated during certain killings. I'm guessing that was a deliberate choice, but I felt it sucked alot of energy out of the character.

    As I said above, I sort of guessed what Carter's portrayal of Mrs. Lovett was going to be. Even given that though, I felt she didn't milk some of the classic comedic quips the characters gets. I really felt this in "A Little Priest". When performed on stage the two actors have quite a few between-verse asides and little jokes, not to mention I think the song was truncated from the original version. None of those little quips and joking were in the song at all. It just seemed to be another example of how alot of the humor of the piece didn't make it into the film.

    As a very macabre film I might say it's brilliant, and seeing an extremely graphic portrayal of the murders (something not usually done on stage) really drives home the psychosis of these characters, but I felt it was missing even the most obvious humor bits that even the darkest and most serious live staging of the piece will retain.

    I also felt it odd that "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" was never heard in the film, but musically it was everywhere in the score. If any "overture" piece was ever perfectly written to accompany opening credits than the Ballad was it, a shame it wasn't used, IMO.
     
  11. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Supporting Actor

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    I agree with most of the complaints above. I think Depp tends to be too flat in most of the movie and better in the murder scenes. I think both lead performances lack the operatic vibrancy the roles call for and, while I realize you could never put a performance like Angela Lansbury's on the screen without making it feel way too big, I still think a few pitches above what it is now would have helped enormously.

    All of that said, I don't think it's a bad film. I just think it could have been a lot better.
     
  12. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    As for the interpretations of the main characters, I saw the original Broadway production, have watched the PBS taping of it many times, saw the 2005 revival with Michael Cerveris and Patti Lupone (twice) and can recite large portions of the score from memory (I say "recite" because I can't sing a note). To me the film is remarkable for what it includes, not for what it left out, and I think both Depp and Bonham Carter have produced remarkable and original takes on two of the iconic characters of contemporary drama. I wouldn't want to see them on stage, but they've made a bloody good film, IMO.

    M.
     
  13. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    I have to take issue with this quote from the quoted article:


    My suggestion was to use it during an opening credit sequence that progressed the story. The thing "holding up the action" at that point is an, IMO, worthless opening credit sequence that is basically just some bad CGI. I often don't mind "segregated" opening credits that are standalone and essentially an overture, but when I feel it could have been used as some productive story-building time I take issue with it.

    I also don't feel the differences are really distracting, the film is much more like the musical than it is different. In fact, one change I do like is the moving of the second act "Joanna" so that it happens before "God, that's Good." It works in either order. I mainly just don't like the exclusion of pretty much any bit of humor from the piece outside of the Perelli character. I could sense the tone and mood really wearing down the audience I was seeing it with by the time it came time for the Judge's return.
     
  14. Matthew_Def

    Matthew_Def Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm only familiar with the film, but I found it to be quite funny. It wasn't hilarious but some of it was so ridiculous you had to laugh. I think the whole beach fantasy sequence had the biggest laughs. And Mrs. Lovett was mostly a comedic personality.
     
  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I also disagree that "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" would have worked with opening credits. In its initial version, it builds to the introduction of Sweeney himself rising out of a grave -- an entrance that's pure theater and would make no sense in film. Subsequent verses comment on the action, and the final verse give us a moral that Burton's film gives us with the very compelling final image of Sweeney and his late wife.

    Please don't misunderstand me; I love "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd", and it's one of my favorite numbers from the show. But once it's separated from the "greek chorus" of cast members singing it, I just don't think it works as a disembodied refrain.

    M.
     
  16. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    'The Ballad of Sweeney Todd' was underused as a musical theme in the film, and its one of my few but niggling gripes about it. I agree that its lyrics are somewhat out of place in the context of film, but the orchestration omits the entire melodic line. I'm sitting there humming 'Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd,' and people are staring at me like I'm the one wielding the razor.

    My other gripe is the omission of 'God, That's Good!,' but that omission can be better argued by somebody else.
     
  17. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    Well, "God, That's Good" was there, in the form it was morphed into anyway. I didn't really have any issue with it. As a matter of fact, since we see him building the chair and using it and the Act 2 Johanna was moved to be before "God, That's Good," the last half of the song wouldn't make any sense logistically since it is them testing the chair and chute.

    After reading parts of the article that Michael posted I can see how the cuts were made - since they basically were designing it so that only the principles ever did any singing. That explains certain decisions, though I'll argue whether that angle was even necessary to take. Ask me a year or two years ago and I'd say, yeah, do something to make it "less musical" to make it appeal to people better, but I think audiences have once again grown somewhat accustomed to musical conventions and wouldn't have begrudged the film a chorus.
     
  18. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    I think that was indeed the filmmakers' thinking behind the lack of lyrics to 'God That's Good' (and that would also explain why 'The Ballad of Sweeney Todd' was left unsung).
     
  19. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    In response to a post from the 2007 Film List Thread:I think it's geared toward, first, a very specific sense of humor: the type of person that finds a man slitting throats as he sings a lament to his long lost daughter hilarious. But that person must find the humor in the juxisposition and not simply find grotesque murder itself funny, because he or she is expected to feel something serious when all of the obsessive schemes come down on their planners' heads. The characters, with the exception of Antony and Toby, cannot be sympathetic and do the things they do. Benjamin Barker is extraordinarily sympathetic, but by the time comes for he and Mrs. Lovett to search for Toby in the bakehouse, it cannot be argued that Sweeney is. In fact, it's hard to argue that Sweeney or Mrs. Lovett can be considered sympathetic after they write off humanity in "A Little Priest." It does feel like the turing point it is, though, because — contrary to Sean's opinion — I still feel it's such a hilarious number, keen as it is with its barbs of a number of prominent professions. So in absense of a sympathic protagonist, you have a compelling protagonist, who ultimately gets his just rewards for an obsessive campaign of revenge launched by events he had no control over. It's certainly not a musical I know back to front — which probably helped me accept the movie more readily — but it is one that I find compelling. The way the cast of characters move toward their inevitable ends fascinates me, and the bleak nightmarish world they inhabit only seems natural to me. I couldn't imagine this story playing on in a conventionally lit and photographed movie.
     
  20. Bradley Newton

    Bradley Newton Stunt Coordinator

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    I just saw this tonight and I thought it was brilliant. I was not expecting it to be so dark and serious. I thought Depp was spot-on. Todd is dead inside because he has let the thoughts of revenge consume him, so the only time that he should come alive is when he is about to seek that revenge. And by playing it the way he did, Depp came off as completely psychotic. You sensed that he could snap at any moment and kill children or even Mrs. Lovett. I was relived that Burton didn't camp this up with any more humor that would have taken the sting out what is supposed to be a morbid, horrific, and nightmarish tale. Oh, and Depp sounded like David Bowie. A LOT like David Bowie.
     

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