(BY ALI NADERZAD) A great show has rolled into town, with fantastical landscapes of 19th century London, tormented characters who entice one another into committing misdeeds big and small, and blood–a lot of blood. Blood by the bucketloads. But this is hardly surprising if you consider that this Sweeney Todd is, in a funny way, the stepchild of Tim Burton (he directed it) and Helena Bonham Carter (she has the lead role). Burton’s movies often exist in an altered reality (Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish) and Helena Bonham Carter looks great in druidian. This brand new Sweeney Todd, which opened in theatres on Christmas weekend, also stars Johnny Depp in the role of the demon barber of Fleet Street himself. And Todd has a gore problem since it rather begs the question: how much blood is too much? One critic has declared the bloody scenes, such as when Todd invites hapless customers in for a shave and proceeds to adroitly slash their offered up throats, to be of such manicured estheticism that the gore is necessary and artistic. This was rather my expectation, too. After all, isn’t Burton a bit like the Steven Spielberg of the gore and the fantastical? Sweeney Todd’s craftsmanship is magical, a feat to behold and just for that it is worthwhile to see the film at once. But sadly, these tormented characters (Todd lost his family and has turned against the whole world, his daughter is locked away somewhere and wants to escape, and Todd’s wife has met some very unfortunate demise and is begging for recognition) leave us nothing to go on, to feel with, to relate to. Was this intended by Mr. Burton? Are we not supposed to feel anything for these characters? I always enjoy a movie more if I can root for one of the protagonists, or clamor for someone’s comeuppance. But in spite of director Burton’s outstanding visual show, this cast of characters leave one utterly cold. And yet, as you will (and should) see the film, you will notice certain things and be terribly impressed. For example, most of the Steven Sondheim-written score is sung by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter themselves, there are no boring epilogues involving secondary characters and Burton has possibly no qualms whatsoever about showing us the apparent unambiguity of man’s need for deep and exacting revenge. A curious film, with magnificent performances by all involved (Alan Rickman also performs, as Judge Turpin) and beautiful, if moody imagery–yes, in fact, it seems all of the film’s emotionality bled into the dreary landscape of 19th century London. A SCREEN COMMENT 3 star film.

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