Friday, July 30, 2004
Ok, I admit... I really liked The Village. People are going to rip this sucker apart, call Shyamalan a hack, slam him for yet another attempt at a twist ending (which, of course, I won't reveal here). Yes, the critical assault has already begun.
Some context: I enjoyed the Sixth Sense, loved Unbreakable (sorry, comic book geek here), didn't care much for Signs, but admired what it tried to do. I like Shyamalan because he has a very specific vision, offers up something different than your average Hollywood fare, even when it doesn't quite work.
So why did I dig The Village? The main reason: Since I figured out the twist months ago when I saw the first trailer (no, I'm not braggin'... it's not too hard to guess it. Go ahead, take a shot. Storytelling 101.), and was so sure I was right, I was able to pay attention to how he got there there instead of guessing what he was going towards. The acting, the visuals, the details of the deception, the score. His films are mood-pieces, and this variation hit me just right.
It wouldn't have worked at all without Bryce Howard. Opie Cunningham's daughter is a revelation in this thing... she just plain shines. Carries the film on her shoulders with some solid help from Joquain Phoenix. There's a scene between the two of them, sitting on a porch at night, that just kills... adds an emotional weight to the story that was sorely needed, given the fairly stiff 19th century dialogue the film was saddled with.
There's one major plot hole that bugs me a bit... if anyone else sees the film this weekend, leave a comment so we can discuss it. I'd be curious to read what you think.
Yesterday's free-flick double feature included a screening of The Manchurian Candidate, in honor of all the political goings-on around town this week. The original is one of my favorite films, so this one had a lot to live up to. I went into it trying not to compare, and had heard there were enough changes in the script to do so, but left slightly disappointed that it wasn't more different than it's namesake.
Mostly, it felt like it didn't know what it wanted to be. It tried to be a serious thriller, a commentary on our times, but veered into parody and unintentional comedy at a couple spots. The tone shift was occasionally jarring, a couple of the performances so hammy, cliche, and over the top that it disconnected from reality. Something closer would have cut harder, I think.
Knowing the ending, the entire final act, naturally removed most of the tension for me. Without plot tweaking, I doubt it could have won me over... I was paying too close attention to the differences that didn't come, looking for more than just a 'modernization', so the letdown was inevitable.
I should mention the good things about the film, though... lots of welcome and familiar faces filled out the supporting cast. I was especially surprised to see musicial genius Robyn Hitchcock in a fairly important speaking part, although remembering that directory Demme helmed his live concert film explains that. Bruno Ganz makes an appearance as well, and his face will always hold a warm place in my cinema-loving heart thanks to Wings of Desire, one of my favorite films ever. Geoffrey Wright's in there, too, and rocks as usual. Another recognizable face was Pablo Schreiber, who played Nick Sobotka in the excellent second season of The Wire, easily one of the best dramas on tv. (Y'know, I didn't connect it until just now, but he's Liev Schreiber's brother. How 'bout that.) That's not all the great bit actors that fill out the film ... Dean Stockwell, BeBe Winans, Charles Napier (the go-to guy for movie generals/sheriffs), Miguel Ferrer (Twin Peak's Albert, Robocop's Bob Morton) is in there, Tracey Walter (Repo Man and a million more), too. More than one person from the cast of 24 shows up as well. It's a freakin' who's who.
The familiarity didn't stop with faces, but with songs as well. The Dead Kennedys, Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, TV on the Radio... gotta love Demme's choices. The biggest surprise of all was seeing Chris Leo's name in the film's credits. When it first appeared I thought... "Naaaah... couldn't be the same Chris Leo." Singer/guitarist from the Lapse, the Van Pelt, and the Smiles. Brother of Ted. A damn great songwriter. The "performed by" in the song listings said "Vague Angels", so unless he had a new band, it probably wasn't him.
Then I saw the song title, "The Difference Between This, That, and the Other Thing", and knew it was Chris. That's an old Lapse song, from their criminally unreleased album. Hot damn, he made it onto the soundtrack. Ah ha! A quick web search brings up this Vague Angels page. So glad to learn that Chris is out playing again... and damn! looks like I just missed them here in Boston. Argh, not going to let that happen again, that's for sure.
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
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