01 August, 2006

Let's Talk About M. Night

Poor M. Night Shama*&^^%%*. Either people love him way too much (The Sixth Sense) or they just don't understand him at all.

I personally have a huge amount of respect for the guy. He's a unique storyteller trapped in a segment of the artistic community that is overly fond of the bland and the repetitve. I don't think movie industry people know what to do with someone who is just a pure bard--who loves stories for the sake of the tale.

There's a bit of the same reluctance in commercial fiction....M. Night's ink and paper counterpart is probably Greg Iles. Both of these men seem to enjoy crafting good narratives with interesting characters, and they both seem to resist genre repetitiveness. Which hurts them--that is to say it hurts their backers commercially.

I've spent enough time in marketing to know that Branding Is Key and Loyalty Is Hard To Win But Easy To Lose and Blue Is Always On Trend. So if you've got to sell a book or a movie, conventional wisdom would seem to say that you go with what has worked in the past. If The Sixth Sense guy has a new movie, by all means sell that film to the public in just that Golden Arches way. Tell them that this movie is created by the same guy who made that thriller a few years ago. And sell it as a thriller.

That's what the Film Marketing Machine has done to MNS' entire body of work subsequent to The Sixth Sense. And now, finally, with The Lady In The Water, their adulterous attempts have caught up with them. People aren't going to pay gate prices for yet another mis-marketed fiasco. Especially not with the bitter aftertaste of The Breakup fresh in their mouths. Films that are sold as "funny" are actually dark and depressing, and films that are sold as thrillers are actually nice love stories about slightly crazy cult groups in Villages.

So M. Night Shama&%%^( is left with a mis-sold body of work. I imagine that 20 years will put enough distance between the audiences and the marketing teams. Perhaps then his films will be appreciated upon their individual merits.

Greg Iles' publishers and agents finally got wise to marketing him solely as "Greg Iles" and his books as "Greg Iles' Books". So the WWII novels move just as well as the thrillers and the science fiction he turns out. Readers and publishers have come to know and trust the man and his talent. It would be nice if Hollywood would learn that lesson and let moviegoers experience MNS' work the same way.


At 11:04 AM, August 01, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

It makes me wonder if Hitchcock were alive and making films today, how would Hollywood try to market them and thus misrepresent them?

Just a thought...

At 11:34 AM, August 01, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

If his storytelling were limited to books, then they'd be pulp fiction in my opinion. He does create great mood and knows how to build suspense, better than most I might add, but his storytelling is just so formulaic (if that's a word).

In every movie of his I've seen -- 6th Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village -- they all involve the gimmick of keeping a crucial piece of information away from the audience until the big reveal at the end. That works once, as it did so effectively in 6th Sense, but hanging your entire carrer on this one gimmick is just too much.

I haven't seen Lady In The Water yet, but if he'd just break away from his "gotcha" gimmick, I think I could better appreciate his work. There's a LOT I like about his movies, but having to pin your whole movie on the same thematic device spoils it for me.

At 11:40 AM, August 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Well, I like pulp fiction, so 'tisn't such a problem for me. I think pulp fiction has, in the past 40 years, become the new realm for the storyteller. Most highbrow fiction relies too strongly on emotion and cynicism to bother with telling tales.

In all honesty, I don't see the "twist gimmick" in his films as overtly. Yes, The Village (another mis-sold thing) really did that, but I don't recall Signs or Unbreakable having twists that the story relied on. I thought they were just good stories.

I think the marketing co.'s want you to THINK there's a big twist.

And BigOrange Michael, I always think of Hitchcock when I think of MNS. Very similar filmmakers, in my opinion.

At 11:53 AM, August 01, 2006, Blogger Malia said...

David and I talked a lot about this stuff after seeing the movie this past weekend. Personally, we are big M. Night fans. I think he is a very good storyteller and movie maker.

A lot of blame has been heaped on the marketers but I have to wonder if M. Night was equally involved in the marketing. It seems to go beyond traditional marketing methods. Take "The Village" for example. A good part of the marketing for that centered around "the rules" of the the village concerning Those We Don't Speak Of. However in the movie there is no overt reference to any rules, they are not posted anywhere to be seen, they are not recited in the classroom. What the marketing gave us was a "backstory" to help us understand more of the story before we got to the theatre so that the movie didn't have to take up time telling that portion of the story.

I loved Lady In The Water. Not only was it, at its basic, a good story but the themes that run through it are powerful and thought provoking.

At 3:12 PM, August 01, 2006, Blogger Short and Fat said...

"Dark" comedies suck.

Mrs. Fat & I watched The Royal Tennenbaums a few years ago and The Life Aquatic last night.

I do not think two movies could possibly be less funny. Except that one scene where Luke Wilson, realizing he couldn't be with his adopted sister slit his wrists while shaving...that scene was comedy gold.

I was ticked specifically because of the way it was marketed.

At 3:26 PM, August 01, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

I prefer to avoid information about his films at all costs until I see them. I think that are definately mismarketed and so I've foud I enjoy them more if I'm not expecting anything in particular when I buy the ticket.


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