Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brand Name

If you’ve watched the latest Harry Potter movie, chances are you’d have seen the highly intriguing trailer for the movie, Lady In The Water. It stars critically acclaimed actor Paul Giamatti, but that’s not why it’s intriguing.

The trailer opens with idyllic scenes from an apartment building in some seemingly quiet district in some U.S. city—butterflies on the wire gates, children swimming in the pool, tenants going about their business. Among them is the superintendent (Giamatti) who goes about his daily chores—fixing the plumbing, cleaning the windows, taking out the trash. The score is a classical song, very lyrical; the images are shown mostly in slow-motion. We follow the superintendent as he finishes his daily chores, and by evening he goes home to his run-down shack behind the pool. There you see him in his solitary existence, whiling the time away by writing in his notebook.

Then you see text on black.
(The font is reminiscent of the title logo of The Polar Express, the Tom Hanks/Rob Reiner Christmas CGI movie which spectacularly tanked last year.) The lines appear one after the other:

“Once upon a time…”

“There was a man named Cleveland Heep”

“whose life would change forever.”

In the score, the instrumental intro gives way to the singer who sounds like Josh Groban. Onscreen you see the superintendent wake up with a start; he had fallen asleep on his chair. He stands up; behind him is a window, and outside you see the pool—there is splashing in the water. Next shot is outdoors: you see the superintendent step out of his shack, flashlight in hand; in the foreground, you see a wave ripple across the water.

Then the title comes in; the music soars magically, clueing you in that the movie is neither horror nor suspense. And in the final shot, the camera’s point of view is underwater; you see the superintendent’s refracted image peering into the pool as he sweeps it with his flashlight. As the light hits the center of the screen, the image is replaced by the following words:

“A Bedtime Story”

And—here’s the clincher—a second later the following words appear below:

“Written and directed by
(the following are in big, bold letters)

When his name was revealed, there was a palpable gasp in the audience, and the whole theater was abuzz with anticipation and excitement.

After Steven Spielberg, no other living film director could generate that kind of instant identification, anticipation and excitement from an audience just by flashing his name onscreen. I guess perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s name onscreen had that kind of effect before, but as I said I’m just guessing. Peter Jackson may be revered by film geeks, but he still has to put “director of Lord of the Rings” under his name so that ordinary folks can recognize his name. Martin Scorsese is revered, but his name doesn’t generate excitement anymore. Even Tim Burton’s name has lost its glitter. Michael Bay’s name, on the other hand, generates a different kind of feeling, something akin to nausea (then again, that must be because his shots are vertigo-inducing).

Shyamalan’s name has become, literally, a brand name. Ironically most people have a problem pronouncing his name, so most refer to him as “M. Night”. My brothers and I call him “M. Night Shawarma” for short.

I expect that this movie may have that twist-in-the-end which he is already known for, but who knows? The synopsis—which I read in the official website—is intriguing enough: Giamatti discovers that the lady in the water (played by Bryce Dallas Howard, his star in The Village) is a narf, a fictional character from a bedtime story. He and the other tenants try to help her get back from this world to hers. As he falls in love with the lady, he begins to realize that he and the others are also characters in this bedtime story. Twisted, isn’t it?

Maybe the twist in this movie is that there’s no twist. But twist or none, this is one movie I really want to watch.


Blogger Nelson said...

yeah the trailer made me gasp too! the instrumental music was taken from the soundtrack of "il postino" [the postman], so i thought it was something romantic. then when m. night shyamalan's name came up, i gasped! naloka lola mo! hehehe can't wait!

8:17 AM  
Blogger hastydevil said...

i actually thought it was a commercial for something. tehehe. stupid me.

8:30 AM  

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