For a brilliant filmmaker like Tim Burton, the recent tribute to him sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center (Fresh Blood: An Evening with Tim Burton) was a bit of a disappointment. FSLC Programming Director, Richard Peña, interviewed him in awkward segments sandwiched between film clips which had been divvied up into various topics like Animation, Collaborations with Johnny Depp, and not so surprisingly, Sweeny Todd. It occurred to me that the evening itself was a signal as to just how heavily his new movie is going to be promoted. An expensive musical version of the hit Broadway play, the movie stars none other than Mr. Depp as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Mrs. Burton, Helena Bonham Carter, as Mrs. Lovett. From the few clips I saw at the tribute –according to it’s director, the film is apparently still in in some state of post-production– there’s reason to feel optimistic. Not really knowing much about Johnny Depp’s singing voice, he does a reasonable job considering he is starring in a Stephen Sondheim operetta. No doubt there’s a lot riding on the success of this film and so the early buzz is already circulating.
The main issue I had with the evening was that it was not really the appropriate forum for a larger than life character like Tim Burton. To me, it seemed that he was out of his element through much of the 75 minutes or so that transpired. The questions were fairly superficial and therefore the fans who filled up the Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, didn’t learn much if anything about the esteemed director. Still the cinematic stroll down memory lane was fun and I was reminded about how powerfully effective his images were on the big screen. It’s been almost twenty years since I saw Beetlejuice or Edward Sissorhands and there’s no comparing it to the DVD. His style is big, loud and macabre. The tribute to him might have worked better had it followed suit.
Upcoming special events on the Film Society’s calendar include a special preview screening of Oscar contender Atonement on Tuesday, December 4th and the Society’s annual gala tribute on April 14th, 2008, honoring Meryl Streep.