Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do not go gentle into that good Night

Okay, Neil, write out one hundred times: "I did not start this blog to slag off movies."

I did not start this blog to slag off movies.

I did not start this blog to slag off movies.

I did not start this blog to slag off movies.

I did not start this blog to slag off movies.

I did not -

Oh, screw it!

I went to see 'The Happening' this afternoon, and I'm not happy. I'll tell you how unhappy I am. I'm unhappy enough that I almost titled this post 'This Happening's just not happening, dude'. That's how unhappy.

I could easily type up a checklist right now, an enumeration of all the things that don't work about the film - from the appalling dialogue to the wonky acting by way of Tak Fujimoto's curiously lacklustre cinematography - but that would only skim the surface.

What really annoys me is that it could have - should have - been so much better. Here's an example: Zooey Deschanel's leaden line-reading of "Just when you thought there couldn't be any more evil that could be invented" (a howlingly awful sentence) while the camera frames her in a bland, unflattering composition. Let's break these elements down: Deschanel is one of those captivatingly attractive actresses who isn't merely pretty - there's something radiant about her. For a lensman to make her look dowdy takes a special (lack of) talent. Yet Tak Fujimoto is the man who shot 'Something Wild' and 'The Silence of the Lambs'. Bad dialogue notwithstanding, Deschanel's performance throughout is wooden - and yet she's vibrant and sassy in, say, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.

And if I've not mentioned the bad dialogue enough already, here's one more go-around: 'The Happening' is indubitably the clunkiest script M. Night Shyamalan has ever written, eclipsing even the breezeblock-like exposition of 'The Village' ("he found one of the suits we kept under the floorboards"). And yet Shyamalan's screenplays for 'The Sixth Sense' and 'Unbreakable' develop their themes with subtlety and sureness of touch.

The people involved in this film have talent. Granted, Shyamalan's career has pretty much defined 'up and down', but for all his tendencies to self-indulgence he is quite obviously an intelligent man; and at his best, a highly capable film-maker. I'm hesitant even to criticise him for self-indulgence. Quentin Tarantino is the very embodiment of directorial self-indulgence and the same critics who are quick to knock Shyamalan are just as eager to laud Tarantino.

Subject of which, an argument can be made for both men delivering their best work with their first two features (if, that is, we discount the little-seen 'Praying With Anger' and 'Wide Awake' (shelved by Miramax for three years) and count 'The Sixth Sense' as Shyamalan's debut).

So, before I take my axe and get to work on 'The Happening', I'm going to revisit M. Night Shyamalan's previous work. Is 'The Sixth Sense' the masterpiece many would have it? Could 'Unbreakable' be his best film to date? Were the first warning signs there in, well, 'Signs'? What's the connection between 'The Village' and my debut as a blogger? Is 'The Lady in the Water' really the disaster everybody has it? Will I find anything positive to say about 'The Happening'?

The Shyamalan-a-thon starts tomorrow.

There will be spoilers.


Lou Kije said...

I'm completely with you. So much so that I'm starting a movement to make "The Happening" the most walked-out on film in the history of cinema ...

And yes, I even suggest getting a refund of your ticket from Ruper Murdoch.

We don't have to take this kind of crap.

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks for the comment, Lou. I'll do a post today linking to your site. I like what you're doing.