August 13 - 19, 2004 • Vol. 24 - No. 33

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The Village:
Not the Horror You Might Have Expected or Wanted

by The Blonde and The Maven
Film Columnists

In The Village, residents of a rural Pennsylvania community live a happy and pure existence. The children grow up isolated and away from the complicated outside world. The people of the village believe that the surrounding woods are filled with strange, monster-like creatures. A truce has been struck, allowing the community to peacefully co-exist with the dangerous beasts, as long as no one strays beyond the village borders. To obtain permission to cross these borders, a villager needs the approval of the elders.

Edward Walker, who is played by William Hurt (Changing Lanes, Dark City), is the leader of the elders. Walker is a teacher with a vast knowledge of the region’s history. Lucius Hunt, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Signs, Buffalo Soldiers), makes such a request to go to “The Towns,” which are across these borders, through the woods. His request is denied, as the elders do not feel his reasons warrant risking his life. However, later in the movie, Ivy Walker, played by Brice Dallas Howard  (her breakthrough role and also director/actor Ron Howard’s daughter) is granted access through the dangerous woods because…well, no fair squealing.

The elders fear these creatures beyond their borders. They refer to them as “Those we do not speak of,” whom of course everyone speaks of! Occasionally, these “unspeakables” periodically raid the village, leaving red markings on the doors of many houses. Red is known as “the bad color.” Red cannot be worn, grown, or displayed in any form, as it attracts the monsters.
Amidst all the fear and suspense, The Village is basically a love story. This shimmering delicacy of passion is played out through the timid Phoenix and the strong-spirited Howard. Oscar-winning Adrien Brody (The Pianist) adds a touch of spice as the third person in this triangle. Director M. Night Shyamalan (writer/director/producer of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) creates a world where fear manipulates the characters’ every motive. The film is given a metaphorical weight that goes deeper than goose-bumps. He rivals Michael Moore with his provocative political innuendoes.

The Blonde: The Village was like Witness meets, meets…okay! I am stumped! This eagerly awaited thriller had a truly brilliant marketing campaign. However, because of the enormous hype and lack of any information advertised in any trailer, I felt a bit disappointed about the story itself. I am torn as to how I feel about this film. On one hand, it was creative and original. Yet on the other hand, it fell short of the scary suspenseful, “I see dead people” type of movie that you look for in Shyamalan’s stories. If you’re hoping to see a creepy film that keeps you in fear and on the edge of your seat, you won’t find it here.

The Maven: This film is a mix of horror, romance, and political allegory. The power of the village comes from the tension building inside the characters, not from digital monsters. Shyamalan assembled a great cast to accomplish this. The key word here is secrets. Everyone has them in this movie.

The Blonde: Big deal, everyone has secrets. I’m still trying to figure out what the heck is Victoria’s Secret, any one of my ex’s, or even our government. Not to mention, OJ, Michael Jackson, or even Martha Stewart, for that matter. I don’t need this stress. Horror?  Horror?  Maven, I never felt horror except for the few minutes when I thought my white shirt was ruined when the lid fell of my diet soda. Romance? Romance? Not once did Lucius take Ivy out for dinner, buy her jewelry, send her flowers or take her on a romantic vacation. You call this romance? Now Richard Gear in Pretty Woman, now that was romance!

The Maven: But these secrets shape a village and condition young and old to fear everything outside their borders. What does that sound like to you?

The Blonde: A commercial for a weight loss chain? A life insurance endorsement?  Alright, I see your point. This movie parallels our own government. The fact that our officials keep us in the dark and tell us only what they want us to know is exactly what gives us a false sense of reality. That again proves my point exactly.  I went to see a scary movie, which is what this writer/director is known for, and got something I did not expect, and not in a good way. I feel he should have told us more about this movie in his coming attractions so people would not have been let down.

The Maven: No! You chose to believe the hype. Give M. Night a break. This movie deserves to stand on its own, not to be compared to his other films.

The Blonde: Tell that to Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King!

The Maven: And, as to revealing more in the coming attractions, how many times have we seen the best scenes in the movie previews and complained about it?

The Blonde: Twelve? Do I win? I will give him a break though.  After watching his nationwide director’s interview, he proves to be such a natural, humble, unaffected, creatively gifted and talented person. It appears that his actors feel the same way.
The Maven: You’re trying to pigeon-hole this director when he’s clearly diverging from his usual M.O. Shouldn’t filmmakers show originality? Where would we be if Spielberg only made movies about E.T.s? No Schindler’s List!

The Blonde: Hey, watch it. Spielberg can do anything he wants. And, what do pigeons have to do with this? And, who the hell is MO?  Original yes, but he led us to believe that this was something it wasn’t. Kind of like my engagement ring that wound up being a cubic-zirconia. Okay, Maven.  He is a wonderful storyteller, creating every mood and tone realistically. He brings the best out of his actors as well. By the way, the musical score was brilliant. I heard that M. Night changed his mind three times as to what type of music he wanted. He asked James Newton Howard (also the composer of Signs and Unbreakable) to write the entire score over three times. He should have done the same to the storyline.

The Maven: Well, I enjoyed this movie and I like being tricked.

The Blonde: Then go see David Copperfield!
The Maven: I applaud the chance M. Night took in making this film. I would have appreciated a kiss or two! I don’t know. I just would have liked a little more romance.
The Blonde: Yeah, who wouldn’t?!

The Maven: I rate this movie a B as it was a little flat. To give it a higher rating, I would have needed to see more expression of the passion I know Ivy and Lucius were feeling.

The Blonde: I was disappointed in The Village. I don't like being tricked unless there’s more of a treat. I rate this film a C.  Movie-goers, just make sure that you don’t expect another Sixth Sense or Signs. No scary BOO here! Maybe you can throw some popcorn at the people in front of you and scare them!

Miami Design Preservation League Presents an Exclusive,
Free Screening of Film Noir Classic The Big Clock


On Wednesday, August 18 at 7pm, the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) will host a free screening of The Big Clock, based on the novel by Kenneth Fearing and directed by John Farrow in 1948. The screening is part of MDPL’s Classic Film Series, an ongoing film and discussion series to celebrate the work of Hollywood art directors from the Art Deco Era.

The Big Clock was released in 1948 and stars Oscar-winning Ray Milland and Charles Laughton. The film is a suspense classic about a hotshot crime magazine editor, George Stroud (Milland), who inadvertently becomes the subject of a murder investigation after spending an evening with his boss‚ (Laughton) mistress. She ends up dead, and he is being framed by the actual killer.

Maureen O’Sullivan and George Macready co-star in the film. Director John Farrow and star Maureen O'Sullivan were the husband and wife team that gave filmdom their daughter, actress Mia Farrow.

Described by film critics as a richly told, often humorous story, The Big Clock is also famous for its intriguing film noir cinematography and beautiful costumes by Edith Head.

The Miami Design Preservation League is a non-profit preservation and arts organization founded in 1979. It is devoted to preserving, protecting and promoting the architectural, cultural, social, economic, and environmental integrity of the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District (Art Deco District) as well as other areas of the city and South Florida, wherever historic preservation is a concern. MDPL is the oldest Art Deco society in the world.  MDPL is headquartered at the MDPL Center, 1001 Ocean Drive on Miami Beach.  

“The Big Clock” is 95 minutes and admission is free. The screening is open to the public and takes place at the MDPL Center at 1001 Ocean Drive on South Beach. RSVPs are recommended by calling 305-672-2014.


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