Saturday, May 31, 2008

Movie review: "Sweeney Todd"

The story is almost Shakespearean, if not for that little deviation where Sweeney Todd and his baker girlfriend set up a rather bizarre business that leverages a perfect synergy of their respective skills. :-) Though I guess when your characters wear heavy goth makeup you can't expect them to play by the rules of classical tragedies. :-)

Their makeup also made it near impossible for me to tell them apart, at least for the first half of the movie. I think I've said before that all actors in any movie look the same to me, modulo distintive hairstyles, haircolor, beards, glasses, height, body type etc., which are visual clues I use to tell actors apart. That's true even when they are not wearing harsh black-and-white makeup! (Exceptions are actors who I've seen in at least 3-4 movies, so that their faces start to look distinct to me. So for example, if I hadn't stopped watching Harry Potter movies after the third one, I may be able to recognize its cast already ;-)) But the makeup in "Sweeney Todd" makes it hard to even tell men and women apart!

This is just one reason why I have difficulty understanding what's happening in the movies. "Sweeney Todd" made it exponentially more difficult because everybody in it spoke very quiet, very fast, and with a British accent (which is so alien to me it might as well be Chinese). This is one of those movies that gives your fingers a two-hour long workout on a remote control. When the music surges, you scramble to turn down the volume (especially when a child is sleeping upstairs). When dialogue starts, you frantically pound the buttons to turn the volume up. I don't understand what's the logic behind that. Shouldn't the dialogue be loud, while the music kept down to a non-irritating level?

Despite all this, I was surprised the plot seemed fairly cohesive to me. Except for one thing. At the very end Sweeney Todd is shattered to discover that a very important character has died. How did that character get into the basement? The last I saw of that character, he/she/it was in the barbershop. I wasn't even sure of this character's identity, but Steve (who says I am hopelessly imperceptive) assured me it had to be what it was in order for the movie to make sense. Still, he could not explain how that character got in there. So it's not just me. Either he is imperceptive too, or there is a hole in the plot.

The best thing about "Sweeney Todd" is its music. It's beautiful. The melodies are very complex. Such a beautiful reprieve from one-dimensional pop tunes. (Not that I listen to pop tunes much, but some of them infiltrate even the public radio (the only kind of radio I listen to).) If I found a legal and free download of Sweeney Todd soundtrack, I might even lift a finger to click on the link! ;-)

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