Now, many of us at Reverse Shot make no bones about our admiration for much of M. Night Shyamalan's cinema. And his rousing speech last night at ShowEast just further cements my own belief that his filmmaking strategies, classical Hollywood yet as visually enticing and precise as anyone working currently in the studios, are as essential as ever.
Lashing out against the Steven Soderbergh-backed HDNet-enhanced plan to even further shrink the window between theatrical distribution and home video DVD release by simultaneously releasing films in theaters, cable, and video stores, Shyamalan passionately argued for more traditional movie-watching methods. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter:
In an interview before his speech, Shyamalan said he planned to ask theater owners at ShowEast's Final Night Banquet and Award Ceremony "for zero tolerance on this -- to say, 'If you're gonna release a movie in another medium, then you're not going to get into our theaters' -- because at the end of the day, they hold all the cards."
Alarmist though he may be, Shyamalan really threw down the gauntlet: "If you tell audiences there's no difference between a theatrical experience and a DVD, then that's it, game's over, and that whole art form is going to go away slowly," And even: "The Sixth Sense' DVD bought my house. You know what? Take my house."
Surely the matter is more delicate than this, for it's possible that day-date releasing could get movies to places where they otherwise wouldn't be, which could help rebuild the art audience...BUT Shyamalan's point is strong, valid, and essential. Most maddening is that the first of these simultaneously released films, Soderbergh's atrocious Bubble (which means that you can see a bad movie on video, cable AND the theater all at once!) will undoubtedly win praise and indie cred from those who fall for its gimmick, while Shyamalan, upholding the qualities of aesthetic control and visual expression we should all be maintaining, is probably headed for future critical drubbings. Shyamalan's The Village demanded to be seen in the theater, for it is cinema. Bubble fuctions as a home movie might, and therefore its distribution makes more literal sense. As long as directors like Soderbergh abbreviate their art as a way of packaging it for a different medium, the possibilities for widescreen experts like Shyamalan ever dwindle.
Hopefully, it's all alarmist, but as we were when The Village came out, we're with you, Night.