Friday, January 04, 2008

Tim's Back

When I was about ten, I saw Tim Burton's Beetlejuice at a friend's house after school. Her parents were "artists" and therefore considerably less vigilant about what we watched. Beetlejuice was packaged like a children's movie, and in many ways it is. But for those of you who have seen it, you know that in many ways it is definitely not for children. For a full year, I wore my bangs parted like Winona Ryder's.

Edward Scissorhands is a film that pretty much almost single handedly changed my life. In fact, anytime I hear Danny Elfman's score I weep. The movie also began what has been my life-long love affair with Johnny Depp.

If you can't tell, I am a huge Tim Burton fan.

Well, I was . . . until he re-made Planet of the Apes . Tim, you don't remake PLANET OF THE APES. Ever. Also: DO NOT EVER, I repeat, EVER, remake Hitchcock movies, filmmakers. Just don't do it. There isn't a point. I hear rumours of a Birds remake with Naomi Watts. WHY? Remaking cult or classic films is like trying to teach Bach the tenets of music theory.

Tim continued to make some bad decisions in the late 90s and early 2000s. He did make a beautiful film called Big Fish which I consider his "sell-out," film, and I suppose there were some fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , but let's face it. Those movies are nothing compared to the genius of his early films. (I forgot to mention Batman Returns !) On a side note, he also dumped his longtime girlfriend (and fiancee) Lisa Marie (who appears in Mars Attacks, Sleepy Hollow, and was the inspiration for Sally in A Nightmare Before Christmas ) for well-known homewrecker* Helena Bonham Carter. The two quickly shacked up, leaving Lisa Marie with no home. Eventually, because Tim and Lisa had lived as common law man and wife, she had to sue him to reimburse her for the property and possessions of which she had been co-owner.

*HBC famously broke up the marriage of power couple Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson when he cheated on her with Helena during the making of Frankenstein .

So when I heard Tim was doing a film version of Sondheim's masterpiece, Sweeney Todd, I was skeptical. Oh no, Tim, I thought. Not other remake. What are you doing? And Helena? Can she even sing? After seeing a preview I was excited, but I found myself lying awake at night, silently praying, please don't let me down this time, Tim. Don't let me down.

Rather than wasting your time reading my review, you could just read A.O. Scott's in The New York Times . I basically agree with everything he has to say. Although I disagree that it should be considered a "horror" film. In fact, between Sasha Baron Cohen's cameo and Johnny and Helena's duet about what kind of meat pies to sell, I would be tempted to call it a black comedy. But you know what? It isn't. It's a drama. And it is beautifully done. Tim really knows what's he doing when it comes to cinematography, costumes, and makeup. The film, in its blacks, greys and brilliant reds, is beautiful even when it is ugly.

This is a film about revenge. And revenge, much like the diseases in the Victorian age of London, spreads like a cancer, rendering Johnny Depp almost unrecognizable by the end of the film. (Yes, I suppose his Susan Sontag hair is pushing it in the beginning, but Johnny contorts into such expressions of rage and violence in this film that I was genuinely frightened of him). In fact, he is so blinded by his rage he can't even recognize himself.

I find it interesting that Tim has chosen to make a movie about hate and revenge at this point in his career, when he seems to be riding high, both personally and professionally. But all the same, that's Tim for you. Sweeney Todd is the anti-holiday movie. And for those of us bearing a grudge, I can't think of anything better to recommend than the sight of Johnny Depp, brandishing a razor, bathed in blood.

Tim, you've done it, old chum. Just keep it there, and write some original material. You're still one of the most important American filmmakers.

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