This week, for Hit Me with Your Best Shot, Nathaniel R over at The Film Experience has elected to celebrate the release of Dark Shadows – because, well, somebody has to – the eight collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, by looking back to the first of their projects together: 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, AKA every right-thinking person’s pick for Burton’s best film overall, unless they forgivably prefer the also-magnificent Ed Wood and slot this one in at #2.
I am not going to spend time talking about how much I love this movie, because that’s not the point of this feature; though I will say that if you have not, perchance, seen it yet, then allow me to use all of my influence and sway as a Film Blogger of Note to suggest and indeed command you to go watch it right this very second, or at least at the very first second that you can get your hands on a copy.
In fact, I won’t spend much time talking at all, because unlike some entries in this series, I don’t have any thought process to work through. Sometimes, when reading Nathaniel’s pick for the week’s exercise, I realise that I’m going to have to throw myself into a really focused re-watch (or first viewing, in a few cases). Sometimes, I think, “Oh. Well, I guess I’ll go with X.” And so it was this time.
About one-quarter into the film, there is a scene – my favorite in Burton’s entire career – when we flashback to the grey, Gothic home of the Inventor (the irreplaceable Vincent Price), the strange old man who created the title character. Here, there is a massive grey machine in which all sorts of terrifying looking robotic things create cookies. Little stamped-out heart and star cookies. It is a great huge, over-designed monstrosity of horror imagery, and yet its entire purpose is to create something tiny and nice and lovely and humane – the look on Price’s face as he plucks a cookie from the conveyor belt is one of the sweetest moments in his entire career, and I love it to pieces. Now that Burton is creating product more than directing movies, it can be hard to recall, but there used to be a time when all of his movies were oddball, gothic monstrosities that looked like one thing but as you peered closely you found the loving, sentimental side underneath the horror movie veneer. And in this regard, the cookie machine is, I think, the ideal metaphor for Burton’s aesthetic, in the early years when he still cared.
Anyway, the punchline to this lovely, brief scene, is the moment when the Inventor realises that he can marry his grotesque automatons and the sugary humanity of his laboratory in one single body, which is exactly what Burton did in making Edward Scissorhands, and so this pick for best shot is not only the moment when the film is, for me, at its absolute gentlest, but the moment where it explains itself most fully, as well.