It’s still funny. I liked 6th Sense and Unbreakable (the latter has some very good moments—it’s one of the best superhero movies), but this guy has shirked all of his strengths since then for some very, very bad films.
Lady and Happening were so laughably bad I honestly can’t believe anyone would give him funding, and I’m not likely to see anything else he does. Those films were B A D.
His movies attract people because of the twists. They’ll keep making money, and that’s why Devil will be a box office medium-success.
Did Airbender have a twist (haven’t seen it)?
He didn’t direct Devil, though.
. . . didn’t even write the screenplay, in fact, just acting as producer and gets a story credit . . . and of course since his is the biggest name involved it gets splashed all over the promos.
Devil looks hilar.
He puts his name on it to help himself and the film. Although, I bet you he doesn’t even care about the film just the money. He is no way involved in the film other than having his name on it so he can make millions and the film can make millions.
There seems to be a disturbing entanglement between what people think of Shyamalan as a person and what they make of him as a director. Sure he looks a bit arrogant and self conscious. I couldn’t care less. I’m a film fan and I absolutely don’t care about the personality of filmmakers. I judge the work for its merits and faults. Solely that! That said, I think Shyamalan is one of the most talented directors working today. I too liked “Lady in the Water” and became delighted with the carefuly planned shots and the way music is used as an active element of the drama and not just a background sound. All his movies from now on can be terrible and that won’t affect my perception of his previous works. I love the films per se. If their authors are able to offer us more of the same caliber, I’m grateful for that. If not, well… better luck next time.
Sure his films are ridiculous and some are laughable but you can’t deny that they look good. Also he does get some great performances from his actors, Paul Giamatti’s performance in Lady In The Water being a prime example.
Even Cahiers du Cinema makes mistakes.
Unbreakable also has a horrible script. Dingdong really can’t write to save his life. I particularly love the moments when Willis’ wiener kid gets told that there’s “no shooting friends” when he pulls a gun on his own father. I also like how the last 10 minutes is so rushed that it basically makes the rest of the movie irrelevant. Oh also, the freeze frame ending with the faux-historical titles over the screen has to be one of his most idiotic moves (and he’s made hundreds).
I think that Shyamalan’s work as a screenwriter often shows a puerile vision of the world and personal relationships. For me that isn’t necessarily bad, for it confers his work a certain kind of wonder and amazement with little things that gets lost in most other films. That too was a special quality visible in early Spielberg films.
Whether he is actually directing Devil or not, it’s right out of the Shymalanini “handbook” (which is really just a cliff notes version of older, better directors) which is what’s sad and depressing about it (and predictable).
No, Unbreakable wasn’t a great script, but it’s the only film Shymalanmalan (I’m only butchering his name because I can’t spell it properly, really heh) can actually be proud of (so far). I can’t convey how exciting I was when The Village was first being advertised because it was such a simple premise, but a lot could’ve been done with it. Imagine my utter amazement at how uninterested Shymalanana is at actually probing what could’ve been a wonderful symbolic cinematic landmark! Arggh, if I ever get the chance to remake a film – I’m remaking The Village, no question. Only bad films should be remade and The Village isn’t only that, but also a missed opportunity.
I dunno. The low-budget horror thing is the Dowdles’ milieu. If we’re going to blame Shyamalan for what we think Devil is going to be, then we have to blame Balagueró and Plaza for Quarantine.
Someone still loves you M. Night Shyamalan.
The Village and Lady in the Water are, without a doubt in my mind, two of the greatest American films of the 00s. I still haven’t seen his first two films (and I’ll probably avoid seeing The Last Airbender), but the rest of his career is absolutely fine in my opinion.
Ehhhhh, I don’t know about that. I see what you’re sayin’ (how’s that for self-aware posting), but despite the fact that he’s neither directing nor writing, this has Shymamalan written all over it – it’s shaping up to be like a “spiritual cousin” and it just has the same approach.
But anyway, you’re right, fair’s fair – maybe they’ll manage to turn it around. If the Shutter Island trailer is anything to go by: trailers can’t be trusted.
-but despite the fact that he’s neither directing nor writing, this has Shymamalan written all over it—-
“The Village and Lady in the Water are, without a doubt in my mind, two of the greatest American films of the 00s.” – Lights in the Dusk
Not to sound confrontational (perish the thought), but what about these films do you consider great?
I also am really curious as to how anyone can consider Lady in the Water one of the best films of the decade..?
It was filmed well, sure – great cinematography and he does have a way of creating atmosphere – but it was the most incredibly stupid story I’ve ever seen in a film. It’s like a six-year-old child was making it up as they went along.
Edited from a couple of vague blog comments I made earlier this month.
…The Village to me was a great film about society: both western society and the society within the film. It may be one of the most relevant mainstream American films of the last decade in this respect; particularly in its depiction of post-millennium/post-9/11 anxiety. Through great leaps in technology, the world is becoming much more insular and closed-in. The film takes this very contemporary sense of fear and paranoia and the need to protect those closest to us (even if it means shutting out everything that makes life worth living) and places it into a fictional, dramatic context that works on a similar level to that of Lars von Trier’s Dogville: the fictional village as metaphor, or microcosm.
The film shows that no matter how far its society goes to remove itself from the violence of the world, the violence within (human beings, as a species) will eventually permeate. As a critique, it also suggests the lengths that governments will go to “protect” their citizens; aproaching science-fiction almost with the depiction of an archaic “period” society to offer commentary on a contemporary one; as well as the central dramatic device, where the population of the village is essentially imprisoned in order to protect them from the rest of the world.
Without giving too much away, the final reveal is one of the great fourth-wall breakers in contemporary cinema. The point at which one half of the audience think “…wow” and the other half think “oh, fuck… off” Either way, I applaud his arrogance. I can’t imagine any other mainstream filmmaker in North America dropping something like that on their audience. The way that it completely distorts and transforms how the first half of the film is interpreted was, for me at least, incredibly appealing…
…Lady in the Water is just a remarkable children’s film. It requires its audience approach the story with the wonder and amazement of a child. If the viewer looks at the film as an adult, with cynicism and rationality, then it falls apart. It is a simple story, but a very human one in my opinion; one where characters damaged by life, detached and disconnected from one another in their tiny little box-like apartment building, find a reason to exist.
Like The Village, these characters are scared by life, and see the world has a horrible and hopeless place. By making a leap of faith (the same leap that the audience is required to make in order to engage with the material) they find something beautiful and inspirational. I enjoyed this relationship between the subject-matter and my experience with it. I also enjoyed the playful meta-commentary of the film critic character revealing the plot as it happened, but eventually being completely wrong about everything (since critics are no different from anyone else in the world and therefore not to be trusted, I guess)
Yes, Shyamalan puts the “B” in subtle here, but he’s having a lot of fun with it. Again, it’s a weirdly provocative thing to put into a mainstream American fantasy film and I admire his chutzpah.
Lady in the Water is also Shyamalan’s most personal film; one that he made for his children. The film has an uplifting, humane message that is very beautiful but I suppose out of touch with the bleak nihilism that audiences want from films like Hostel or Irreversible; or indeed, the cold, high-tech adventure of Avatar and Inception. The end of the film was incredibly moving to me and done, seemingly, without irony or sarcasm, which I think is rare (and commendable) in this day and age. It was nice to see something that actually finds a fantastical and overwhelming spirit in something essentially centred on mundane, human interaction (or at least, the general need for it)…
I’m totally with you Lights in the Dusk. “Lady in the Water” is a very warm film, with a way of storytelling that seems lost in cinema nowadays, aiming to inspire and make some sense of it all. This is a theme that is present in almost all films by Shyamalan. It may seem a strange correlation but it reminds me of Capra’s “It’s a wonderful life”, for its apparent innocence and childishness. In fact that’s only a cover for a profound reflection on the meaning and purpose of life. Maybe some moviegoers have become too cynical to fully appreciate that kind of approach to filmmaking.
Well, it’s all well and good for Shyamalan to aspire to such meanings in his films (and I don’t think anyone here is in the dark as to his reasoning behind the films you mentioned), but while he may have lofty intentions, his execution is poor at best. Now, I’m not trying to just argue here, but actually debate (in a friendly tone) those points you raise.
Practically everything you praise about those films is in the underlying intention and the narrative. I’m sure Shyamalan would have, in another life (or perhaps later on in this one), made a wonderful children’s author, but as a filmmaker he can’t translate that talent to the screen.
This was why I was curious as to your defense of those films because yes, on paper (which was part of my being excited early on about The Village) they sound great and yes, there’s a lot of opportunity to hold our world at eye level and gaze into the deeper meaning of things, but its impact remains on the page and doesn’t carry over to the screen.
It’s one thing to be “subtle” and it’s something else entirely to miss the point. And when one does that repeatedly throughout one’s career, it’s difficult to excuse silliness and wary pretentiousness as mere innocence and childlike aspirations.
Ya know, and there were a lot of reviewers early on in his career (like say, around when Unbreakable came out) that brought up the point you’re making – that he told his stories from a child’s perspective (not in criticism – most of them at least), that he presented that kind of wide-eyed wonderment which is often lost in adulthood … but, I didn’t really buy it then and I definitely don’t now (especially after The Happening!). There’s nothing innocent and childlike about people jumping from buildings and varying scenes of “mass death” – but you don’t mention The Happening, so it’s probably unfair to bring that in.
But anyway, Lady in the Water has a little bit of conceit built into it as well – where the “writer” character (played by Shyamalan himself) becomes the Savior (and even a martyr! heh, I mean it sounds like something I’m just making up as I go along, but you’ve seen it, it’s there). I mean, it’s a little too on the nose – and this was at the height of the Shyamalan craze, so either it was blatantly intentional or some kind of unfunny joke in poor taste (or poor, once again, execution). I think that was the part that got me shaking my head in disbelief.
But ironically, you’re best defense is with Lady in the Water, because that film is the closest he’s come to realizing that childlike vision on-screen … and yes, Giamatti is wonderful in it, but good actors can be good in bad films too. The film really starts well because it has that initial mystery that Shyamalan’s earlier films had (Unbreakable and even Signs) where one knows not all is what it seems (and early on, he started hitting the right notes), but he NEVER follows that all the way to the end. I don’t mean, prolong the “twist,” I mean do away with the twist altogether and just focus on telling the story all the way through – whether that ends whilst still shrouded in mystery, sobeit! At least tell the story right and work together with that mystery (which he usually sets up successfully) and don’t treat it as this separate entity to be marketed.
That’s what was promising about his early career – his ability to setup a mystery … but now, he’s done away with all that and what we have left is a storyteller who aspires to achieve great things but doesn’t put enough work into the screenplay and make it into a decent film. Some may call that opinion cynical, but for me, it’s just a requirement for every filmmaker. A film doesn’t end with the story, it begins with one.
I think Deckard Croix’s arguments are perfectly valid and, to a point, I agree with them. The hardest thing with cinema, as with any other art form, is to put into words the exact reasons why you like a certain work. Sure we can rationalize for a while and speal about each and every component of the film: the screenplay, cinematography, music, directing… But there’s a point where you can’t articulate your feelings into words (at least coherent ones) any further and the best thing I can say for films like “Unbrekable”, “Signs” or “The Village” is that they surprised me, invited me to think and, above all, gave me that strange sensation down your spine, not out of fear, but that one that comes when you realize you’re experiencing something that truly amazes you. That doesn’t happen a lot of times. But some Shyamalan movies give me that. Sure it may not be a valid and measurable postulation. But in the end, when it comes to like or dislike a film, there are more things that have weight in that choice than the mere sum of the parts.
Shyamalan has recently stated that after “After Earth” his intent to start making smaller movies that will appeal to smaller audiences, citing the Coen brothers’ films as an example.
Does anyone other than me think going the independent route would be a great thing for an oddball auteur like Shyamalan? The thought excites me. He also tweeted that he was working up the courage to direct a micro budget film.
Another thing: Here’s an interesting breakdown of the mise en scene of Shyamalan’s first three well known flicks:
his first indie film went unreleased
and his second was Wide Awake (terrible)
I like M Night (thought Lady in Water and Unbreakable were his best) but not sure he should go small, think he should stay away from kid movies for a while