Sunday, July 23, 2006

Art and Auteurs

Does it seem darker than it should for July? Maybe that's because Night is falling everywhere you look.

I mean M. Night Shyamalan, of course. His latest movie "experience," Lady in the Water was out in theaters on Friday.

It seems that everyone has an opinion on Night--both his latest movie and more importantly, it seems, his "fitness" as a director and self-styled visionary. Most people that I have been reading lately seem to think that the bloom began falling off his rose when Unbreakable came out and that rose really began to wither with Signs.

A typical review along this line comes from Newsweek, which went so far as to declare that Shyamalan needs a Career Intervention.

Ross Douthat over at is more charitable to Night's fate. While admitting that his recent movies haven't lived up to the promise of The Sixth Sense, Douthat finds things to admire and support in what Shyamalan does. I think what he is saying is that he's not a hack. Maybe he's got something of an overinflated sense of self-worth, but he's got talent.

At that is where Night's problems lie. He is so convinced of his own importance that he won't take no for an answer or listen to reason. And, just as importantly, he keeps getting the money he needs to make the movies he wants to make. I give him credit for sticking to his artistic vision, but sometimes, maybe he should consider what the overall value of that vision is.

You can get some insight into this with a recent Entertainment Weekly story that excerpts the book mentioned by some anti-Night articles which chronicles his trials in making Lady in the Water. People against Night say that it displays his hubris. People supporting him probably claim that it show's his determination to make movies his way and not be cowed by losers in suits that sit behind desks. (Wouldn't Wes Anderson say the same thing?)

So, what we're getting at here is expectations, right?

If The Sixth Sense had never done well and maybe if M. Night had taken this success differently (how?), then maybe he wouldn't have been tagged with the auteur label. And then maybe expectations wouldn't have been so high for his next films and come with the resultant disappointments . . .

Is Night supposed to be a successful film-maker or is he supposed to be an auteur? Does this article make it easier or does it complicate the whole question?

What is more important . . . success or art? Respect or self-respect? And is that even the result here?

Now, once you answer that question for yourself . . . where does THIS story fit into everything?

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