May 23rd: People are Strange

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113. The Village (M. Night Shyamalan, 2004)

What an infuriating film-maker M. Night Shyamalan is. Of the films of his that I’ve seen (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and The Village) there are flashes of beauty that suggest he might be better suited as a cinematographer. He conjures up sumptuous colours and compositions repeatedly in The Village to surround the fantastic cast. He also crafts an interesting premise with a clear direction as to what the reveal or twist will relate to. But this has clearly become the M. Night Shyamalan signature and millstone by this point. He has to have his twist and it comes at the expense of actually telling the story. The Village strikes me as an excellent hour-long film, the likes of which grace the Masters of Horror series, stretched to 90 minutes. I’m unsure if it was internal or external pressures on the man but it seemed at this point that the twist ending might have been written into his studio contract.

Regardless of this The Village is an entertaining distraction that’s easy on the eye but the formula is tired and the execution is a little laboured in stretching the story.

1 thought on “May 23rd: People are Strange”

  1. Mr Shyamalan is one of those rare film-makers who, either by luck or just good timing, produces such a Hollywood Great and, hoping that by throwing enough money at him/her, they will recreate that magic for a second time in said Director’s career.

    Either Hollywood really has no idea how great movies come into existence or it is far cleverer than any of us. William Goldman would have us believe it is purely a numbers game (supported by the propensity for endless sequels and prequels) but I don’t know.

    M Shyamalan has created some fantastic films (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs) and some not so great (Lady In The Water, The Happening). The Village lies somewhere in between. The first category are genuinely interesting and captivating movies that have a pacing and depth that I very much appreciate. The second category represents what I call the “Tarantino Dilemma”.

    The Tarantino Dilemma occurs when a film-maker achieves the status mentioned in my first paragraph. Said film-maker then is literally a movie making god, able to get the stupidest of scripts green lit. Do they use their new found powers for good or for making mastubatory movies designed to massage the film-makers ego… Destiny Turns The Radio On is an example of a movie that only came in to existence because Tarantino was in it. Mr Tarantino certainly was dark siding when he got involved in that project. And yet, the sublime Eastern cinema film, Hero, only got a western release because of Tarantino’s influence.

    M Night Shyamalan made The Village and it was good. I like this movie a lot and I posit that the reason it didn’t do so well at the cinema is that it was horribly miss-marketed. Trailers led us to believe it was a horror movie, but really it was a period drama (with a twist!).

    As you state, there are moments of cinematic beauty, for example. Shyamalan’s use of space and camera work to generate a sense of claustrophobia when the heroine is in a forest clearing.

    Generally, the film succeeds in being entertaining and interesting.

    Unfortunately, Shyamalan would go on to make Lady In The Water and The Happening, for which he was quite blatantly channeling the Dark Side of Hollywood in my “Dilemma”.

    The former is a “fuck you” message to his critics wrapped in a piece of shit masquerading as a story. The latter is the biggest example of film-making as masturbation I could ever hope for: Shyamalan makes a tribute to the 80s tv movie horror flicks he grew up watching so successful that he forgot it was a TRIBUTE and not actually an 80s tv movie horror flick. Or he was having a joke at someone’s expense (and I’m not sure if that is the audience, his critics or Hollywood itself).

    Suffice to say, Shyamalan had apparently disappeared up his own arse.

    Sure, QT did for a while (I mean, starring in From Dusk Till Dawn? Recreating old Twilight Zone episodes in Four Rooms? He obviously was just having a laugh at Hollywood’s expense). But then he came back with Kill Bill, which is such a fantastic homage to the 70s “chopsocky” movies HE grew up watching he deserves every credit here. He succeeded where Shyamalan failed because he remembered that it is an homage.

    To sum up: The Village was M Night Shyamalan’s last good film and I blame the suits for it not doing as well as it should have. But the Shyamalan has since decided to abuse his powers and produce two vanity projects that are more like practical jokes on the people who keep wanting/expecting another Sixth Sense.

    Now a director who has consistently generated such quality movies has earned a couple of vanity projects, even if they are utter shit.

    However, I will end this discourse with two points:

    1. Shyamalan is in danger of having his Hollywood VIP card revoked if he doesn’t start producing good movies again. Arguably, Tarantino would never have got Grindhouse/Planet Terror made if he hadn’t reminded Hollywood he still had it with Kill Bill (a much more palatable vanity project).

    The moral here is: it’s ok to make a film just for your own whims, as long as that film is GOOD.

    2. If Shyamalan was making a joke at the expense of his critics/Hollywood, ultimately we the moviegoer suffer. And believe me, people such as Shyamalan only have jobs as long as we go to see their movies…

    You’ve had two strikes, don’t make it three…

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