Lily Pads I

June 1, 2008

The Bleak Leading The Bleak

June 1, 2008

This weekend, we decided to watch two middling-recent movies: “Sweeney Todd” and “There Will Be Blood“. Both are without pity, without love, bleak and without any corner to hide from the hideousness of some human emotions.

The all-singing no-dancing “Sweeney Todd” brings together some of my favourite ingredients — Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Mrs Tim Burton — and yet fails to satisfy (me, that is; the wife thought it was good.) There is no character in the piece that we would want to cheer for, and the lack of basic human spirit depressed me. The standard Burton black-and-white look over-extends itself — the film deserved something more original and challenging. I did like the brief appearance by Sacha Baron Cohen, an actor I have not enjoyed in the past, but that could not counter-balance the feeling I had that Depp and Bonham-Carter and Rickman were lending themselves to a less than perfect idea by a friend.

At the end of “Sweeney Todd“, we leave the crazy barber alone after his latest murder. The self-same scene — leaving Daniel Plainview alone after his latest murder — ends “There Will Be Blood“. Of course, being an Oscar contender, it took “Blood” a heck of a lot longer to get to that same point. At almost three hours, watching this slow, slow movie in a theatre must have seemed like a life sentence. At home, at least we could press pause and have a smoke every once in a while.

Tedious, episodic, and lacking dramatic incident, “Blood” is entirely a character piece for Daniel Day-Lewis as he takes Plainview from hard-bitten miner to deranged millionaire maniac. It is good acting work, but I preferred the more complete roundness of his Butcher role in “Gangs of New York“. The director sometimes uses less than traditional camera placements and that holds the interest, briefly. But in the end, this is a study of a lack of humanity that is bleaker than the landscape within which the story takes place. It needed a better range of actors against whom the lead could play: I never believed in Eli Sunday, the son was too young and dumb most of the time, and Plainview’s erstwhile brother was excellently played but in too little of the movie. And what on earth was Ciaran Hinds being payed to do (I wish I had his agent)?