Monday, August 02, 2004

POPCORN REVIEW: Entering "The Village"

Okay, first, I will try today to make a simple sweet and typical review of this film. Because, ocne you see The Village you'll understand it is simply not just a film (or maybe it will be just a film, in that case you will most likely hate it.) I would also like to preface this review by stating I'm am not, or I wasn't, the biggest Shyamalan fan out there. I liked The Sixth Sense, hated Unbreakable, and enjoyed signs. I always felt that his own ego detrimentally effected his art... and he reminded me of all the arrogant self important boys I went to college with... and I mean that in a bad way. Speaking of Tisch, If only I could watch this film with Richard "Tippi as a Bird" Allen. What I see most likely only scratches the surface of what Professor Allen could bring to light.

The Village, 11/10

Quite honestly, I think this is one of the most brilliant films I've ever seen. I loved it, but I completely understand why 99% percent of Americans, especially Pennsylvanians, will hate it. And those are the ones that won't even understand that the film is mocking them... okay, digressing already.

Back to the film. M. Night Shyamalan, a next generation auteur, delivers another film shot in a hi style manner without flashy FX or slick editing. The story itself is very simple: "Girl goes into Woods." If you were looking for the chills and thrills that Disney's advertising campaign promised... don't go. If you like your popcorn with a little substance... go tonight! This is not a thriller nor is it a horror movie. This film is as much about boogeymen as "The Crucible" is about witchcraft. The film is above everything beautiful, like watching old school Asian or French New Wave films can be.

The writing is odd and antiquated, but it makes sense after a viewing why the dialogue was so unnatural and the acting feeling amature.... Think high school students doing a play that was a cross between "Under the Elms" and "Antigone." The script itself was more a character of the film than a natural blueprint for the piece. The language is simply quite odd in the beginning, yet as the film develops, as do the characters, the uneasy awkwardness flows into normalcy. Yet, it never quite reaches "realism" which is what almost any script seamlessly strives for. If he only had Arthur Miller as the screenwriter. As an executive, I honestly and mistakenly, would have laughed and tossed this script... but Shyamalan knew what he was doing and makes it work.

As far as the cast, Bryce Dallas Howard (my dormmate from NYU) makes a splashing debut playing the blind heroine of this awkward tale. Her emotions are genuine and her ease with the at times ridiculous dialogue prove that she has nowhere to move but up. Joaquin Phoenix and Judy Greer deliver respectable performances that are at times scene stealing in there melodrama. Adrian Brody is either brilliant or dreadful, I still can't decide which... same as I can't decide if his character as the village idiot was creepy or comical. The rest of the cast was padding to these young actors. Nothing more than cameos really.

Roger Deakins, the most brilliant cinematographer working today (Oh Brother Where Art Thou, The House of Sand and Fog) canned another beautiful film. While not his greatest work, he tackeled with finese the difficulty of candlelight and darkness (one of the hardest techniques of cinematography) after a beautiful take on the extremely difficult black and white with The Man Who Wasn't There.

One of the stand out elements of the film were the costumes. The set looked like is was shot at my aunt's house (which happens to be right outside Philly too) so that element of production design, while appropriate, was nothing spectacular. The ;details of the Amish/Victorian costumes were well crafted and beautiful. The works are not flashy (normally my taste, like Chicago, Moulin Rouge, or Elizabeth), but in there also appropriate simpleness they are quite elegant.

Over all, I give this film an Spinal Tap 11 out of 10.

Like I said, that doesn't mean you will like it. To fully experience The Village, do not expect a horror film and be able to look through the stories and characters. Remember, it's titled The Village, not The Woods.

The Village Week: This film is a modern day medievel morality tale through and through. Within the simplistic story are layers upon layers of symbolism and commentary. Throughout the week I will be posting on the different threads of The Village, at least as how I saw them. I will appropriately mark any spoilers where they might occur.

Here's what you can be looking for:

Red & Yellow: It's not just for condements anymore.
Not Quite Amish in the City: Culture outside Philadelphia, Welcome to Dutch Wonderland.
The Texas Prince: The Current Political Climate through the use of Machiavellian Principals
From the Mouths of Babes: A Morality Tale for adults.
To Err is Human: The dark side of human nature.
Shepparding the Sheep: The need for religion, from Moses to today.


At 11:04 PM, Blogger Darren said...

There's no such thing as an 11/10. And it is "House of Sand and Fog" not "The House of Sand and Fog." If you'd stop the NYU gloating for a second, you'd notice these things. :-) (Paybacks are a bitch!)


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