Sweeney Todd Week Question #3 - Final Question

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Sweeney Todd Week Question #3 - Final Question

Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 23, 2007 11:37 am

Comment on the following words of Sondheim and Depp from the LA Times article of 12/18/07. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-et-sweeney18dec18,1,630413.story?coll=la-entnews-movies&ctrack=3&cset=true

Unlike other actors who might learn a film's music after the fact, Depp looked for the crux of his character in the scores. "Some things don't just identify themselves. But the things you don't notice are in your ears," he (Depp) said. "They can be very odd little devices."

But the composer never thought about Hollywood options. "I don't think stage musicals work well on film, and that includes any show a movie company would want to buy, including 'West Side Story,' " he
(Sondheim) said. "Sweeney" "was sold very cheaply for just that reason. You can't just adapt stage musicals for the screen. You have to re-create them. Musical movies made from stage shows don't work for me because they're merely photos of stage shows even if they have cinematic style. In 'West Side Story,' what do you do with the love duet? Nothing is happening during the song."

In Depp's portrayal, tones are held but without adornment. The vocal gruffness and hard-rock diction gave new, more immediate power to the lines. "Initially I had highfalutin plans of taking singing lessons," Depp said. "Instead, I needed to spend time learning the character, find the character through melody and lyrics. And even beyond melody and lyrics, where, when you strip away words, you hear these unbelievably elaborate layers, sometimes these incredibly dissonant sounds, that seem like they shouldn't belong together at all. I started thinking of it as more punk rock than opera."


Please feel free to come back at any time and comment on any of these questions after you've seen the movie.
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Re: Sweeney Todd Week Question #3 - Final Question

Unread postby fansmom » Sun Dec 23, 2007 4:12 pm

Liz wrote:"I don't think stage musicals work well on film, and that includes any show a movie company would want to buy"
I think he's exactly right. I tried to watch the tape of the Angela Lansbury production of ST when it was first announced that Johnny was interested, and I found it unwatchable. Perhaps if I'd seen it live, the tape would have been a nice souvenir, but it certainly didn't work as a movie. The acting seems over-the-top, the balance between voice and orchestra is frequently off, you can see the gaffer tape on the floor making it clearly a set, etc. I'm definitely a fan of live theater--but films of theatrical shows? No thanks.

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Unread postby Parlez » Sun Dec 23, 2007 7:30 pm

For starters, I've got to say how much I love Johnny's vocabulary! Who else who can nail a perfect British accent, singing no less, and then use the word "highfalutin" to describe his erstwhile preparation for accomplishing that goal!? :rotflmao:

I'm not sure what he means by the first quote, about the score and how things stay in his ears and become odd devices...? It sort of sounds to me like he's plugged himself into a few 'things' over the years, but I won't venture to guess what they might be, or to argue with his point of view! :-)

I think I understand the dissonance he's talking about in the last quote. How challenging it would be for a musician to try to make sense out of discordant sounds and find a way to synthesize them. And how exciting it must be for them when they do. I still can't quite believe Johnny undertook his first-ever singing project with this difficult music ~ it's truly amazing what he's managed to do. :notworthy:
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Re: Sweeney Todd Week Question #3 - Final Question

Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 23, 2007 10:29 pm

fansmom wrote:
Liz wrote:"I don't think stage musicals work well on film, and that includes any show a movie company would want to buy"
I think he's exactly right. I tried to watch the tape of the Angela Lansbury production of ST when it was first announced that Johnny was interested, and I found it unwatchable. Perhaps if I'd seen it live, the tape would have been a nice souvenir, but it certainly didn't work as a movie. The acting seems over-the-top, the balance between voice and orchestra is frequently off, you can see the gaffer tape on the floor making it clearly a set, etc. I'm definitely a fan of live theater--but films of theatrical shows? No thanks.


I totally agree. However, some are better than others. :eyebrow:

There is something about going to a play and actually seeing it in the theater. It's just a different experience that I feel should be kept in that venue.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 23, 2007 10:35 pm

Parlez wrote:For starters, I've got to say how much I love Johnny's vocabulary! Who else who can nail a perfect British accent, singing no less, and then use the word "highfalutin" to describe his erstwhile preparation for accomplishing that goal!? :rotflmao:

I'm not sure what he means by the first quote, about the score and how things stay in his ears and become odd devices...? It sort of sounds to me like he's plugged himself into a few 'things' over the years, but I won't venture to guess what they might be, or to argue with his point of view! :-)

I think I understand the dissonance he's talking about in the last quote. How challenging it would be for a musician to try to make sense out of discordant sounds and find a way to synthesize them. And how exciting it must be for them when they do. I still can't quite believe Johnny undertook his first-ever singing project with this difficult music ~ it's truly amazing what he's managed to do. :notworthy:


It's amazing indeed. I love the quality of his voice. :cloud9:

In that particular quote you mention, Parlez, it brought to mind for me how he listens to music through earphones when he's acting. I remember reading or hearing something to that effect--in an extra from one of the POTC movies, maybe? Not sure. It seems that music is something that speaks to him on many levels. I know that someone more knowledgeable than I will fill us in on this.
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Unread postby Kittycat88 » Sun Dec 23, 2007 10:56 pm

For me, the untrained voices of the characters make them so much more real. Stage is so much about movement and voice...projection. Diction.

Some of that creates an artiface between the players and the audience.

Tim's movie rendition has none of the artifice and is entirely driven by the characters who her in Burtons London seem very natural in singing their thoughts...I don't know how he did it...but Tim really caught this just right...

I definitely plan on more viewing though. I think Johnny did exactly right. Looked for the character in the music. He has been at this long enough to trust his instincts... and I do to. He did right by himself and the movie.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 23, 2007 11:09 pm

Kittycat88 wrote:For me, the untrained voices of the characters make them so much more real. Stage is so much about movement and voice...projection. Diction.

Some of that creates an artiface between the players and the audience.

Tim's movie rendition has none of the artifice and is entirely driven by the characters who her in Burtons London seem very natural in singing their thoughts...I don't know how he did it...but Tim really caught this just right...

I definitely plan on more viewing though. I think Johnny did exactly right. Looked for the character in the music. He has been at this long enough to trust his instincts... and I do to. He did right by himself and the movie.


He sure did right! I feel ashamed that I couldn't envision it initially. I think Johnny's instincts are just right on.....all the time. Tim has a knack for that himself. :grin:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Dec 24, 2007 12:56 am

I think trust in his instincts is what a led a lot of us to believe this would be great. His ability to pick his roles and characters is one of the most amazing things about his body of work.

I have a friend that is trained in musical theater, has appeared in Les Mis etc., and she said Sondheim in general and this score in particular, is one of the most difficult pieces of material. Kudos to everyone for a brilliant piece of work!
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Unread postby stroch » Tue Jan 01, 2008 6:07 pm

"Some things don't just identify themselves. But the things you don't notice are in your ears," he (Depp) said. "They can be very odd little devices."

I think I know what he means -- there are so many layers to the score that you react to the stimuli of the music without being able to articulate it with words. You perceive it, but you can't name it.

After seeing the movie a couple of times and listening to the CD constantly, a friend played an old tape he has of the score without the libretto. It is amazing being able to feel Sweeny through the sound.
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Unread postby Liz » Tue Jan 01, 2008 7:42 pm

stroch wrote: I think I know what he means -- there are so many layers to the score that you react to the stimuli of the music without being able to articulate it with words. You perceive it, but you can't name it.


True, there are lots of layers. And I didn't pick that up until I saw the touring play in San Francisco recently. I felt the music much more after seeing/hearing that version....and in the movie even more so.
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Unread postby e_phemera » Sat Jan 05, 2008 5:04 pm

Unlike other actors who might learn a film's music after the fact, Depp looked for the crux of his character in the scores. "Some things don't just identify themselves. But the things you don't notice are in your ears," he (Depp) said. "They can be very odd little devices."


Johnny's odd devices:
What he's talking about...Captain Jack is the master... little sounds that speak volumes:

"er" - the "Oh-how-stupid-of-me-I-forgot-I'm-talking to something-that-is-no-longer-a-mammal-but-is-actually-in-fact-a-cephalopod" in "Why don't we sign it in blood, er, ink?"

"oh" - the tiny, high pitched, "Sorry-I-was-just-about-to-die-here-but-a-spirit-from-another-world-just-sent-me-a-message" "Oh" that he utters when he sees his hat after being slimed by the Kraken

"mmmm" - the closed mouth fuming "I'm-extremely-uncomfortable-and-in-fact-I-think-I-m-going-to-be-sick-right-here-on-the-deck-and-by-the-way-did-I-tell-you-that-I-hate-you-and-I-hate-me-for-letting-you-have-this-effect-on-me" sound like he needs to get to a bathroom quickly after Elizabeth trumps the "taste it" parry and the black spot reappears


(If I'm interpreting those sounds correctly look at the number of words used vs. the sound that conveyed that information.)

Now thinking about those sounds and Sweeney...
I don't have any to recall. I have to see it again and listen with this thread in mind. It may be the sound of an exhale, the drawn out sibilance in "How 'bout a sshave" or drumming fingers...

I'll look forward to reading what you all discover.

Tim's odd devices:
One thing I did notice, especially in the beginning is the undercurrent of sound that Tim has running underneath the music/vocals. Let me explain.

I like something that's sometimes called "difficult" music. As you might guess, it's the sort of thing that would have most people up adjusting the tuning on the radio or turning it off outright. But my ear hears it and my mind notices it because I'm used to listening for those kinds of sounds. I think for most, they go into the subliminal mix of the total effect.

During the beginning scenes, there is a quiet sound emanating from below, a thrumming, grating, beating, breathing sound that happens in the "silent" parts. If you focus on it, it is a very disturbing sound. and it is hard to focus on it. It's made to be subsumed and work on the level (in your psyche) that it seeks.

An example of that from AWE, could be heard on the web page if you let it just sit open after watching the trailer. A sound like the low moaning of 1000 souls carried up on the wind from an open elevator shaft would start playing. I love that sound. It's not on the soundtrack but I'm certain it's "in the mix" of the maelstrom.

OK, so I lost my heart to see ST again, maybe with a goal I can see it again now. Last time I watched just Johnny's eyes for the entire film. This next time will be as his ears.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Jan 05, 2008 5:29 pm

Hi, e_phemera! :welcome: I know what you mean about Captain Jack and Johnny. He can convey so much using so little effort! So now I have to go see Sweeney Todd again to listen for the sounds? Oh well...all in the name of research of course! :grin:
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Unread postby e_phemera » Sat Jan 05, 2008 7:39 pm

Parlez wrote:For starters, I've got to say how much I love Johnny's vocabulary! Who else who can nail a perfect British accent, singing no less, and then use the word "highfalutin" to describe his erstwhile preparation for accomplishing that goal!? :rotflmao:

Yes! Great call, Parlez! :highfive:

Parlez wrote:I'm not sure what he means by the first quote, about the score and how things stay in his ears and become odd devices...? It sort of sounds to me like he's plugged himself into a few 'things' over the years, but I won't venture to guess what they might be, or to argue with his point of view! :-)

What do you think now, Parlez? (approaching it from what I said in the earlier post)

Parlez wrote:I think I understand the dissonance he's talking about in the last quote. How challenging it would be for a musician to try to make sense out of discordant sounds and find a way to synthesize them. And how exciting it must be for them when they do. I still can't quite believe Johnny undertook his first-ever singing project with this difficult music ~ it's truly amazing what he's managed to do. :notworthy:


I have an idea and even a title for an, as yet unwritten, essay:
"Why The Music of "P" Is An Important Part of Johnny Depp Even If You Can't Stand to Listen to Them".

At the speed I write, it will probably remain unwritten, but it would discuss, among other things, his ability to accept, embrace and incorporate things that are "dissonant", not just dissonant sounds, but people, situations, and attitudes, too.
(My dictionary defines dissonant as: unsuitable or unusual in combination).

Thanks for the greet DITHOT :cool:
I'm looking forward to reading everyone's take on your topic as more people view the movie and check in here.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jan 06, 2008 1:02 pm

I'm looking forward to it too, e_phemera! There is so much to discuss about this movie. I like the idea of your essay. If you ever do get it written please share it! :cool:
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Unread postby Liz » Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:52 am

e_phemera wrote:Captain Jack is the master... little sounds that speak volumes:
It may be the sound of an exhale, the drawn out sibilance in "How 'bout a sshave"


Yes, CJS is the master. But actually I think Johnny is the master. I zeroed in on this quote also. I need to go back and listen to those "silent parts" in both ST and AWE. Don't be surprised if I come back and comment on this....of course, it could take me a few weeks. :lol: Welcome to ONBC, e_phemera.
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