The mis­un­der­stood out­sider

> In­dian-Amer­i­can film­maker M. Night Shya­malan is more con­cerned about the sto­ries he wants to tell than peo­ple lik­ing them

The Sun (Malaysia) - - ENTERTAINMENT -

IT IS an old joke in Hol­ly­wood that the big­gest twist in M. Night Shya­malan’s work is how badly his ca­reer nose­dived af­ter he ar­rived on a wave of ac­claim.

The In­dian-Amer­i­can film­maker an­nounced him­self to the world in 1999 with The Sixth Sense – a tense, su­per­nat­u­ral thriller with a re­veal so shock­ing, he was talked up as the new Al­fred Hitch­cock.

Two fol­low-ups ce­mented his rep­u­ta­tion as ‘king of the twist’, but years of poorly-re­ceived work fol­lowed, prompt­ing re­view­ers to won­der whether the twists weren’t just an at­tempt to pa­per over shoddy film­mak­ing.

Shya­malan has never let crit­i­cism jolt his vi­sion, how­ever, and the 46-year-old di­rec­tor has come full cir­cle with rave re­views of his 2015 thriller, The Visit, and early ac­claim for his new movie, Split.

Ar­riv­ing for a preview screen­ing of the psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror tale at the AFI Fest in Los An­ge­les this week, he was at pains to point out that the twist was never a defin­ing fea­ture of his work any­way.

“I don’t think of it like that ... like I’ve got to bust out the big dance move ev­ery­body wants. It’s not like that,” said the fa­ther of three, known to friends as Night.

“It’s more about what is this story you’re telling and how are you telling that story.”

Born Manoj Shya­malan in south­ern In­dia, he was raised in an af­flu­ent part of Philadel­phia, where he was given a Su­per 8 cam­era as a young boy and, in­spired by the work of Steven Spiel­berg, made 45 short films be­fore the age of 16.

Shya­malan still lives in Philadel­phia, and it is partly be­cause of his in­sis­tence in re­main­ing out­side the Hol­ly­wood fold, cou­pled with an in­dif­fer­ence to bad re­views, that he has at times come across as aloof in me­dia in­ter­views. Yet, in per­son, he comes across as po­lite, af­fa­ble, hum­ble even, which points to a pos­si­bil­ity that he of­ten raises him­self – that he is just mis­un­der­stood. “I def­i­nitely feel like an out­sider but I guess it’s my nat­u­ral ge­og­ra­phy,” he said at the Split screen­ing at the iconic Chi­nese Theatre, the beat­ing heart of Tin­sel­town. Shya­malan’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion be­gan when he moved into tele­vi­sion last year, ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duc­ing Fox mys­tery sci-fi se­ries Way­ward Pines. His first crit­i­cal suc­cess since big-screen thriller Signs in 2002, the show was de­scribed by re­view ag­gre­ga­tor Rot­ten To­ma­toes as “creepy and strange in the best way” and a “wel­come re­turn to form”.

Split, which Shya­malan also wrote and pro­duced, delves into the frac­tured mind of Kevin (James McAvoy), who is suf­fer­ing from dis­so­cia­tive iden­tity dis­or­der and man­i­fests 23 dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties.

Com­pelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the wil­ful Casey (Anya Tay­lor-Joy), Kevin is the un­will­ing host of a war among all of the per­son­al­i­ties con­tained within him – and a darker one yet to emerge.

The movie has been widely praised, gar­ner­ing an ap­proval rat­ing of 80% on Rot­ten To­ma­toes.

Va­ri­ety magazine de­scribed it as “a shock­ingly good thriller” and praised Shya­malan for get­ting a ca­reer best per­for­mance out of McAvoy.

Asked if he feels he has some­thing to prove, the di­rec­tor looks be­mused, telling AFP that film­mak­ing is “so much more com­plex than that” and deny­ing he would ever worry about peo­ple lik­ing his films.

“I’ve been re­ally ex­cited with th­ese last movies – mean­ing The Visit and Split – be­cause I’ve made them very dif­fer­ently: smaller, be­ing edgy and do­ing un­usual things,” he said.

“Re­ally I’m not think­ing about what would work or what wouldn’t work. I feel more dar­ing, you know – that abil­ity to take risks.” – AFP

Shya­malan (be­low) has been en­joy­ing a come­back with his last two films, (left) last year’s The Visit; and (right) this year’s Split.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.