Monday, January 09, 2006

Cutting-Edge Cinema

You may have read the various items speculating that Tim Burton will direct a film version of Sweeney Todd, with Johnny Depp as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Burton has been talked about as a potential director of a Sweeney Todd movie for something like ten years, so I'm skeptical.

If it's true, Burton will certainly be a better choice for the project than the guy who just pulled out of it, Sam Mendes (the man whose production of Cabaret seemed to be based on the proposition that a "serious" musical is one where the audience is discouraged from having anything resembling fun). Still, I'd point out that Burton's main weakness is in the realm of storytelling and structure -- he has great visual style but not much sense of story, so once the visual style ceases to dazzle us, we start noticing that the story isn't going anywhere -- and I wonder if he's the man who can really deal with the structural weaknesses of the Sweeney Todd musical. Sweeney Todd is one of those shows that takes a great long time to get to the point and then has to cram a lot of plot into a rushed second act, and that spends quite a lot of time on scenes that are either basically filler (the barbering contest between Todd and the Italian barber Pirelli) or don't really go anywhere (the romantic Anthony/Johanna subplot, which is practically dropped in act two). That describes a lot of Burton's movies too.

A smart script can deal with these things, of course, but I have a feeling that when it reaches the screen, the whole thing will wind up taking place in the mind of Beadle Bamford.

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