Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Top Films: M. Night, the Good

In 1999, a little anticipated film hit theaters and caused a sensation placing its creator into a class of filmmaker perhaps too high for any “first timer.” M. Night Shyamalan has been struggling with his reputation ever sense.

Some auteurs are known for telling their stories with brilliant writing and dialogue, others are visual storytellers. M. Night does not seem to fall into either group. One imagines him like a songwriter who stumbles onto a good phrase of melody and builds a whole song around it. With him you can almost see the little scenes and set-pieces upon which he built up his whole story. In a commercial he directed for American Express in 2006 he seemed to admit as much.

That being said he has used this style to create three films worthy of “top film” status:
"The Sixth Sense" (1999): 
This film used a series of near perfect moments to build one of the creepiest movies ever made, and the scare does not wear off with repeated viewings. It also has one of the best twist endings ever in film, a fact that would curse his every future effort.
"Signs" (2002): 
At first glance, an invasion movie. It is really more of an exploration of faith based not on hope, but revelation. The main character has lost his own faith and thinks that religion is just a salve humanity has invented for reassurance. He is wrong.
"The Village" (2004): 
People were disappointed that this film did not live up to their expectations. Taken on its own terms it is a great study of community, institution and tradition and how dangerous they can by when built on a foundation of lies.

Together these films show what Shyamalan is capable of. They keep us coming back, or at least hoping.

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