The director has always been a personal favourite, as much for his marvellously scrappy and witty drawings and concept art as for his baroque take on the Gothic sensibility. His eye for the ornate shadows and impossible romanticism of the outcast will always resonate and find an audience, yet his directorial sojourns have, of late, met with some critical backlash despite commanding huge box office figures and handsome returns for the studios who invest in the man who was once champion of the strange and unusual.
Any book on Tim Burton needs to be well illustrated and each project covered in de Baecque’s book has a wealth of images from the director’s scratchy concept art to the final on screen image. The visuals in any Burton film are always of interest but here we have a book which seeks to go deeper into the mindset of the man whose films are instantly recognisable and this book gives a decent stab at understanding why Burton’s crooked road, without improvement, leads his own particular palace of wisdom.
It’s not the most revelatory book on the director, though the recurring images and thematic touchstones are identified and occasionally go beyond the obvious ‘Burton IS Edward/Ed Wood etc’. It is the conversations with the author which are of greatest interest, as Burton’s work is best commented on by the man himself with a reluctance to draw precise meaning from his film tempered with an appreciation for, and easy access to, the inspirations which bore them.
As a fan of Burton’s artwork and films it was a pleasure to read, and the stories of the collaborations during production and studio influence and interference adding a new dimension to an appreciation of the body of work. There were a few too many comments culled from Mark Salisbury’s Burton on Burton and, oddly, studio press releases for my liking but when the word comes from Burton himself, and with some artwork I’d not seen before, this is a certain recommendation for fans of a director whose talents often shine through even the darkest of tales.