THE DUKE ON THE VILLAGE

POLITICS, DECEPTION, AND
THE FILTHY FUCKING CINEMA
OF LIES
Folks who work in the automobile industry will tell you that a
spoiler is a thing what sits on the back of a car and makes it
look all space-age and shit. These people probably get lured into
reading a thousand reviews of films what tell you all about how
so and so dies and such and such is actually his wife or her
sister, and then you discover that sweet holy Mary, it was
nothing but a motherfucking sled.

The reason for this is because Spoilers, in the complex world of
filmic affairs, refer not to things on the end of a car, but
rather to bits of plot and so on what a fella might not want to
know about, so maybe you should hold off reading the review until
you see it, and then I can tell you not to see it but you’ve
already gone and done it, for crying out loud.

So then, if one has yet to view the film, one might wish to be
cautious when reading the following incisive critique of M Night
Shyamalan’s
The Village, on account of The Duke has already seen
it, and therefore knows stuff what you don’t. Like the filthy
communist he is, he might just go ahead and spill those beans,
like what Jack did once upon a time and then got a beanstalk in
the back garden, but his mum was still pissed off on account of
the cow was worth, like, a thousand dollars or something. More
than a tin of beans, anyroad.

Shyamalan’s previous film,
Signs, was concerned with the fear of
the outsider, amongst other concerns. It demanded vigilance,
alertness, since you never know when a slimy shit from someplace
else is gonna turn up in your larder. Curious thoughts for a man
of immigrant stock to be thinking.

A friend once debated this with
The Duke, but what with The Duke
being drunk and unwilling to agree to even the most agreeable of
points, I told him to stop being so damn stupid.

Upon awakening, I discovered that yes, that fella was right after
all. Also, someone had stolen my hat.

That was a nice hat, is what, and it pains me to the guts that
some scummy motherfucker saw fit to steal it from
The Duke’s
drink-sodden skull.

Like Chubby Checker, though, Shyamalan is known for nothing if
not the “twist”, and the twist here is that
The Village actually
mocks such outlandish fears, and also, it could be argued, the
audience.

You stupid sons a bitches, it almost says. What a bunch a
gullible cretins you really are.

What
The Village concerns itself with, is a village in the middle
of some woods or other, and the folks what live there are all big
fans of Arthur Miller, specifically
The Crucible. They just love
that wacky dialogue, and even though
The Village takes place a
couple centuries later, these folks still want to be speaking
just like in the play about Winona Ryder gets burned for
shoplifting or something.

It’s kinda like if, a hundred years from now, someone made a film
about an English town set in 1979 but had them all talking like
in
A Midsummer Nights Dream, on account of Shakespeare was
English and also “historical”.

Shyamalan’s a smart cat, though, and knows full well that you’ll
be mocking the dialogue right up until the last ten minutes, and
then you’ll feel all stupid.

Pre-twist, it rattles along in the vein of a weird, very well
acted, occasionally very tense chiller. Post-twist, it emerges as
some kind of non-comedic
Pleasantville, a parable about how
progress should be welcomed, rather than feared.

To be honest,
The Duke is conflicted as all hell. Thematically, I
admire the points being made in
The Village, the stuff about the
cruelty inherent in keeping folks from the truth, coupled with
the love that goes into those decisions in the first place.

Unfortunately, this twist what serves to ensure the film becomes
weightier around the skull than you might have assumed, also
means that subsequent viewings can only become wearying, patience-
testing affairs.

The Sixth Sense, for example, worked brilliantly on repeat
viewings, because everything was put together with such
precision. The tension still worked, because although one element
of the tale was eventually revealed as fraudulent, the rest of it
was still credible.

It was still possible to be freaked asunder when that lass showed
up in the tent and then started drooling. Even after you knew the
twist, those scenes still maintained their power.

I forget what the twist was. Something about Haley Joel Osmond
was a robot, I think, and then went under the sea to look for
Pinocchio. Something to that effect.

The Village, though, renders itself impotent, ensures that the
tension mentioned earlier, those scenes what got the old blood-
pump racing and so on, become pointless.

The whole thing, in fact, becomes crushingly pointless.

It’s like those web-sites what have the obstacle illusions or
whatever, where you have to stare at a picture for a minute or
two and then, just as you’re saying about this is ridiculous,
there ain’t nothing there, suddenly a face flashes onscreen and
scares the shit out of you. It’s a whole heap of the fun, but
when you know there’s a face about to come up and then a scream,
the exercise becomes fruitless.

OK Folks, Major Spoilers Coming Up. Seriously,
Don't Read If You Ain’t Saw The Flick.

In his review for The Harry Knowles Digest, Moriarty, or plain
ol’ Drew McWeeny to the taxman, states that “
The Village is one
of the first films by a major filmmaker to tackle post 9/11
anxiety head-on.”

It’d be fairly difficult to argue with the man. Moriarty was one
of the first to reveal the “twist” a few months ago, back when he
got hold of a script. Back then, the twist hinged on the
horrible, ridiculous line; “Stupid fucking white people”.

He still feels the flick shoots itself in the foot two thirds in,
but admires, among other things, these musings with regards a
“culture of fear” and what not.

So, does it actually stand up under the whole post-9/11 analysis
malarkey? Permit
The Duke to take an in-depth peek, why don’t you.
First of all, as far as, y’know, stuff like “the story” is
concerned, the parallels are as pronounced as the ones Gwyneth
Paltrow got all obsessed with in
Sliding Doors.

Some horrendous tragedy, or number of tragedies, what led to the
village elders losing those dearest to them, has resulted in
these folks stepping outside society on account of sheer terror
of what goes on in the big bad world.

But how do you keep the young ‘uns from going and getting all
inquisitive? You just tell them that the surrounding woods are
filled with weird, funny-looking “others”, or “Those We Do Not
Speak Of”, and that if you go investigating, bad things will
happen.

The elders are partly justified in their actions because they
have suffered a substantial loss, and have created this pervading
sense of unease amongst the rest of the villagers, in some part,
to ensure that it never happens again.

It’s kinda like in
Carrie, when the mum uses the Bible for to
keep Sissy Spasek from doing shit like, I dunno, having a period
and what not, or getting all obsessed with her “dirty-pillows”.

The Village doesn’t use the Bible. It just concocts some stuff
about demons and beasts and spirits and stuff.

But the sad motherfucking truth of the matter is that, despite
all the intellectual brouhaha going on, the fact remains thus;
The Village is a fantastically well-directed flick, but one
blighted by an awful screenplay.

Shyamalan’s lack of respect for his audience oozes from the
screen at times. Following a big “reveal”, what informs us that
the whole “creatures in the woods” thing was a load of the
“bollocks”, and even going so far as to show us a suit hanging on
the wall of an old shed, Shyamalan tries, not five minutes later,
to draw out a tense scene involving a lass being harassed by one
of these fictional sons a bitches, ludicrously attempting to make
it plausible by having a snippet of the voiceover saying about
“There were rumors of creatures in these woods once” or some such
nonsense. It’s the exact same fucking suit, man.

The Duke had to suspend the disbelief till I thought that damn
thing was gonna break and smack me upside the face, but to no
avail. The twist came too early, is what. You can’t for a second
expect me to buy such ridiculous toss just five minutes after
explicitly stating that such toss was indeed a load of the
“balls”.

It’s like if Hitchcock tried to convince us that Mamma Bates was
still running around the place a second after showing the corpse
in the cellar.

The most telling shots arrive in the form of the patented
Shyamalan cameo, when he can’t even look at the audience. We get
the back of his head, and then a reflection of him in a glass
cabinet, but he never looks right at us. It’s like a kid tryin to
tell you he didn’t piss the bed and that it must’ve been someone
else. He looks at the floor, he looks at the ceiling…

Look me in the eyes, motherfucker. Look me in the eyes and say
you didn’t piss that bed. You think I’m stupid? Don’t insult my
motherfucking intelligence.

Sorry folks. It’s just that
The Duke is a respected member of the
intelligentsia and the very thought that M Night Shyamalan might
try and pull such nonsense is nothing if not a hideous slight on
my character.

There are many, many things to enjoy in
The Village, not least
the performances of Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody and Bryce
Dallas Howard, the latter being the daughter of the fella from
Happy Days what went on to make films about Russell Crowe does a
few sums and stuff.

The Fonz, I believe he was.

Also, Shyamalan’s direction is perfect for the most part,
flinging the tension around with abandon, doing it so well, in
fact, that even a load of the daft slow-motion antics can’t
blight it.

James Newton Howard’s score is also fantastic, sounding on
occasion like something Phillip Glass might have come up with.
There’s also the matter of the cinematography by Roger Deakins,
what paints the whole affair in a gorgeous autumnal haze.

But there’s just no escaping the fact that
The Village sells
itself short on numerous occasions. For one damn thing, it has
everyone going in expecting a horror flick, of all things. Let
The Duke be the first to swear by Lincoln's Knuckles that this is
far from a horror flick. It’s more like a curious reinvention of
fairy-tale mythology, like what Neil Jordan got up to in the
brilliant
The Company Of Wolves, except The Village has less
sexing metaphors, far as I can see.

Maybe in a few years time, free of the marketing and so on, when
folks pick up
The Village just cause they liked Unbreakable or
something, maybe then it’ll be given a fair shot. But folks who,
understandably, expect a monster-movie are gonna puke their guts
over the seat, and there’s no-one but Touchstone to blame.     

Why in the hell does everyone expect the “twist” by the way? Of
the six films Shyamalan has crafted, from 1992’s
Praying With
Anger
until now, only one had anything resembling the slap-in-the-
chops reveal what folks for some reason associate with his entire
filmography.

The Village panders to those unfounded expectations, and it sucks
as a result.

The Duke is a fan of the Shyamalan fella, let it be stated for
some kind of record. I adored every frame of his previous trio of
filmic excursions. I even adored
Signs for crying out noisy. This
goes some way to explaining why
The Village left me reeling with
frustration. It’s not because it didn’t do what
The Duke wanted
it to. It’s because it did what I
expected it to, and did it with
all the elegance of a man coughing up a lungful of cum onto a
passing Alsatian.

I’m just shaking my head like you wouldn’t believe right now.

I’m off to figure out why
The Duchess hasn’t been talking to me
ever since that night when the naked fella showed up in the
bathroom. I didn’t even know him, man. Maybe this little robot
kid knows something about it.

Thanks folks.

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