Skip to comments.The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)
Posted on 01/21/2019 9:27:48 AM PST by EveningStar
Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: Psycho, Saving Private Ryan, Lawrence of Arabia, Nashville, Chinatown, The Hurt Locker, The Silence of the Lambs), but whatever your taste, odds are that the movies you chose were not written by the director in question. (On my list, none of them were.)
There are, of course, countless great writer-directors Ingmar Bergman, Preston Sturges, Quentin Tarantino, you name it. So its not as if it has to be one way or the other. But the point of my little exercise is that the history of cinema is brimming with directors who are towering artists, who ruled and stretched and defined the medium, yet did so without ever claiming to be screenwriters. A few of them dabbled at it, at times effectively (Spielberg, for instance, wrote Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I would call his second greatest film), and just about every director worth his or her salt is probably, on the set, doing some version of what amounts to rewriting. But you get the point. The fact that youre a virtuoso film director doesnt necessarily mean that youre a virtuoso crafter of words.
Which brings us to M. Night Shyamalan. In my review of Glass, his sequel to Unbreakable thats also a sequel to Split (and yes, he hog-tied those movies together in the final minutes of Split, but come on! Until that moment, the two films had nothing to do with each other) ...
(Excerpt) Read more at variety.com ...
His early stuff was fantastic.
Later, it was so random and so utterly nutzo I think maybe he got into some of the Hollywood drug culture.
It wasn’t eccentric genius —it was simply crazy.
John Ford didn’t write his movies. Neither did Howard Hawks. And no, I am not comparing Shyamalan to either one. He’s made a couple good flicks and had some major flops.
Maybe theres so much hate for it from professional critics because its a pretty anti-elitist film.
I very much enjoyed the movie and so did everyone else in the screening .
Spielberg has had some real dogs lately as well, “Ready Player One”????? WTF was that?!?!?!!
I liked Ready Player One.
Sixth Sense and Signs are great. Split is very good. Unbreakable good. That’s a pretty good resume.
Actually, they do have something to do with each other. Kevin Wendell Crumb was originally the man in the orange suit in Unbreakable who kidnapped the family and lived at their house. Unbreakable would have had all of the multiple personalities and dialog that Split had, intercut with Bruce Willis learning his power. M. Night Shyamalan realized that was too much, and cut out Kevin from Unbreakable.
The problem is not Shyamalan writing his own screenplays. It is that his greatest stories (e.g. “Sixth Sense”) were not written under a deadline. He rewrote “Sixth Sense” around a dozen times, I think. It was a spec script, so he could afford to keep working on it until he got it right.
I haven’t seen “Glass”, but I have seen some of his films that fell flat. I think the biggest problems were due to moving forward with material that wasn’t quite ready. “Sixth Sense” was originally going to be about a detective (the character who was played by Bruce Willis) investigating murders which were solved by listening to this boy who can communicate with the dead. But the detective became a psychologist, which worked far better. Shyamalan said he, at one point, threw his “Sixth Sense” script in the trash because the film “Casper the Friendly Ghost” came out, and he felt it was too close to his story. These films, in there theatrical form, obviously have little in common.
The author of this article might have a point though about collaboration. Shyamalan had a lull in his career which is probably related to his determination to write his own material, which took him too long to complete. When a director or actor is “hot” and in demand, there is a window of opportunity that must be exploited or it will go to waste. This works against the artist who needs to keep working on his art until it is just right. However, if Shyamalan learns to collaborate more on the screenplay side, he might be able to crank out more quality work on a deadline, while he is still in high demand as a director. If he takes too long, the momentum of his success will diminish and he will have trouble getting a wide audience for theatrical releases.
One other point. By shifting his focus recently to smaller budget films, working with Blumhouse, he can probably find the creative freedom and less demanding time constraints that will help him stick with his creative vision without the time-to-market demands that go with larger budget projects. Sometimes smaller budgets for films have a way of squeezing more creativity out of the writers, directors, and producers who make them.
I’m clicking to watch either Signs or Knowing every time I see them in a tv line up. I didn’t like Split too much so I will probably wait for the video of his latest.
That one would be difficult. Some of the others are easier.
Spielberg - Schindler's List
Lean - Bridge on the River Kwai
Altman - Mash
Stephen King and John Grisham have dozens of assistants working out story ideas for them, investigating and researching historic events, news archives, folk tales and the like...
The Village is one of my all time favorites,
beautifully surreal, idyllic and serene, but with a jolt to bring you back to reality.
The front-porch talk between Joachim Phoenix and Bryce Howard is a heart-stealer—
That's a good point, although I don't think he "shifted his focus recently to smaller budget films" as much as that is all the money he could get from someone to make a film. For "The Visit," his first well received movie in a long time, he actually had to second mortgage his house to finish it.
"Split" is an interesting movie. It had a budget of 9 million, which severely constrains the director. Because of this, 90% of the movie takes place in a cheap basement set of a couple of rooms. Most of the story takes place by watching people's facial expressions. But it works. The new movie, "Glass", is only budgeted at 20 million, despite a lot of hype for it.
M. Night Shyamalan is definitely a mixed bag, but I do respect him for trying to stick with his vision. Good or bad, he is willing to take full responsibility for the result. And he has made some unique films. No one else would have made a trilogy like Unbreakable/Split/Glass.
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