Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Movie Club #4: Lady in the Water and Funny Games (1997)

0:00 - 2:35 -- Intro/Role Call
2:36 - 54:06 -- Lady in the Water
54:07 - 1:37:40 -- Funny Games
1:37:41 - 1:40:38 -- Outro

» Download MP3 (69 MB)

Lady in the Water (2006)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban, M. Night Shyamalan

Funny Games (1997)
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski



drewbacca said...

Here's how I would explain myself a little bit better about why Lady/Water doesn't work like a Narnia or Star Wars does.

In movies, it's the director/writer to set up rules for the world they're creating and then stick to those rules. Sometimes you can break one or two to thrown the audience for a loop or shock us.

With Lady, Shyamalan doesn't adequately explain those rules; and then even if he had, the rules keep getting cahnged throughout the movie. The world isn't consistent. There's always this feeling of "Oh yeah, I forgot about this one thing I have to tell you about" from Shyamalan. And he does it over and over and by the end, it just doesn't matter anymore since he's totally lost his audience.

Henrik said...

It's a shame that the discussion about Shyamalan never goes beyond wether or not you buy the story. Even if you do not think that the story makes sense or is worth of attention because it doesn't play fair or whatever, the way he tells it is amazing.

He is a visualist in the tradition of Stanley Kubrick. You might have elements that are ridiculous and wack, but who cares? Every frame is so deliberately set up and composed that it is a delight to watch. I mean does anybody buy that a woman all of a sudden has blue hair? Of course not, but it looks awesome. I takes balls to be awesome. Shyamalan especially with his latest two films, has made an effort to force audiences to relate to the films more as artistic expression that is happening on a film screen, moreso than an immersive experience to lose yourself in. In The Village all of his characters speak like they are in a poem from the middle-ages and it completely takes you out of the movie, but it is a joy to listen to. His images in all of his films are so blunt and blatantly set up, there is no excuse for having certain colors be prevalent, and for the framing to be extremely deliberate and unnatural - to the point where people may get the experience that they aren't being played fair with. They don't have a chance to relate to the films on an emotional level, because they are so different from anything that would be even halfway relateable. But that doesn't mean that it's a failure. It's not like he tried to make Raw Deal and failed, these films are more blunt and uninviting than most other films being released in these years.

The fact that all of the stylistic elements work together in unison - with the scores standing out as being particularly noteworthy and borderline revolutionary in contrast to all the dribble that usually accompany films - makes him a filmmaker worthy of attention and admiration. His films do not attempt in any way to get the audience to go along for the ride. They're almost daring you to take them seriously, because they seem so extremely strange and impossible to relate to.

For me, M. Night Shyamalan is probably my favourite living director. He is blunt, without excuse and without remorse. He does whatever he wants, and he doesn't give a fuck if he loses the audience, which I think is a hell of a lot more respectable, than the constant pandering to and secondguessing of audiences that is so prevalent in hollywood-filmmaking.

So yeah, Lady in the Water is tough to relate to. It's hard to let into your head, because you have no idea how to define the film. It's challenging, but not in a way such as a David Lynch film is challenging, it's challenging because it's also being playful with all the conventions that you definitely know and can define. It toys around with your expectations and your understanding of filmmaking. The umbelical cord between filmmaker and audience is stretched extremely thin, and the challenge is to stick with the filmmaker, and continue to believe that you're in good hands, even though you may want to secondguess the film. If you do so, you'll get so much more out of a Shyamalan movie, than nearly any other major-released director today.

Kurt Halfyard said...

Henrik - The Score in the film is not the usual Hollywood dribble, it's 10 times more offensively obvious. And insulting.

I'm assuming the visual component of the film (which does indeed ROCK!) is due to Christopher Doyle (- aka cinemtography deity).

But the racism/ on display in the film (Mexican's and Chinese familys) is a point I never got to. I'm no prude, but that was particularly offensive - fairy tale or no.

And the opening cartoon didn't mesh with the rest of the movie. It should have ended up on the cutting room floor.

Furthermore, in its own way, LADY IN THE WATER panders as much as it attempts to stretch.

And someone explain to me the 'Giamatti has to act like a child with his milk and cookies' to get the rest of the Chinese womans story? That scene was perhaps the most bizarre in the entire film.

TheSnowLeopard said...

Yet to hear the podcast, but...

"He is a visualist in the tradition of Stanley Kubrick."

You completely lost me after this absurd statement.

James Newton Howard's score is fine and the best part of the film. I'm not sure what you mean by "insulting".

Paul Giamatti acting like a child with the milk moustache, etc was disgraceful and one of the most embarrassing scenes I have seen any actor have to endure. What was Shyamalam thinking?

Anonymous said...

you know, despite this movies reputation as one of the worst movies ever (at least among some circles), its worth noting that it still carries a 6.0 on the IMDB

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that this movie is liked by Jay and Henrik, probably the two most cynical people in this community.

It's a fairy tale for cynics I guess.

I like the Lars/Real Girl comparison. I think that's a cynical story for fantasy types.

I think this was the best episode so far, but I haven't listened to them all.

Henrik said...

Giamatti has to lie down because otherwise the old chinese woman won't trust him. What other explanation do you need? It's explained in the film! The fact that it is ridiculous is hard for you middle-of-the-road enthusiasts to believe (I want to make clear that I am not siding with anybody on this except my self and my own brain, Jay Cheel loves middle-of-the-road cinema that I find a waste of time) does not make it bad. Would you say that having to go to a certain depth to reach the EAM in Crimson Tide is ridicolous? It's the same fucking thing.

"Furthermore, in its own way, LADY IN THE WATER panders as much as it attempts to stretch."

Right. What's with the lying? It gives you enough of regular convention to make you feel like you will be able to cope with what's coming, but then changes everything, does NOT play by the rules. is not concerned with giving you the audience a fair chance to guess anything, or to understand anything... The problem is that asshole movie goers are too used to knowing everything that's going on (I blame this 99,7% on Hollywood producing the same films, relying on the same dramatic elements in every film ever since Jaws came out) and they can't cope with something being strange and un-copeable. 2001 is not stranger than LITW, and the visual side is enough for people to praise that, but not this? Because this is the guy who was forced to make 6th sense, so that idiots everywhere would be able to relate to him, and the second he started doing something personal, people started bitching about how it wasn't entertaining enough. How it's not relevant to them in their personal lives. How it's not a film that speaks to them on a personal level, everybody forgetting that this is filmmaking that DOES NOT care about the personal investment of the wiever. This shows you what the medium is capable of, it does not go the traditional route of getting the audience along through convention, and then maybe throw a stranger scene in to make idiots proclaim this is remarkable... Throw away your emotion. Forget your audience capacity. View the artistic expression. Grow up and learn from greatness. Or else... You know you can dismiss this. Watch Star Wars untill you die and do not grow as a human being, and throw away progress because it takes too much work, and Star Wars is so easy to enjoy.

Henrik said...

thesnowleopard maybe if you stopped being an idiot and read my reasoning for proclaiming that statement, it would be easier for you to exist. But I understand not wanting to cope with statements made by the oppostion. It makes daily life so hard when ypu have to deal with actual conflict, rather than just your own prejudged view of how things are and should be.

Henrik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henrik said...

"Henrik - The Score in the film is not the usual Hollywood dribble, it's 10 times more offensively obvious. And insulting."

FUCK I missed this. I can't believe somebody would proclaim themselves worthy of publishing their opinion on movies and say absolutely inane things like this. Listen to any of Christopher Dyle's jobber scores which accompany most of the succesful movies in America, and then listen to Howards score for LITW... Your mind may be rescued from this absurd childlike state of lying behind comfortability, which is mainly what you do in the regular cinecast. I enjoy listening to it, because you guys seem so nice, but the insane amount of failure and straight up wrongness is prevalent every single minute, if one wanted to make that the emphasis of the experience. Which I do not, I'm trying to remain positive, but lying this blatantly deserves a guy like me taking the bait like any passionate film-experiencer.

Henrik said...

The name is Christopher Doyle.

drewbacca said...

For the record, here would be my star ratigs of every Shyamalan film that I've seen:

Lady in the Water = .5/5
The Village = 4.5/5
Sixth Sense = 4.5/5
Unbreakable = can't remember, but I remember liking it
Signs = 4/5

So my not liking the film has nothing to do with Shyamalan's name attached.

And Kurt, I didn't see the racism you mentioned. Where is it? I see some stereotyping maybe, but not any racism - which would be weird considering M. Night is a minority.

drewbacca said...

Funny Games looks like a shot for shot remake. If this is the case, I'm not interested.

Kermode and the BBC with some clips discussing the remake:

TheSnowLeopard said...

Henrik, you are raving like a madman. Your exposition makes no sense. If you call me an idiot, I take that as a compliment, though I am disappointed that you would personally attack someone as a first resort in defending your position. I am tired of your incoherent rants. Your hysterical tirades have poisoned the comments sections of Film Junk, Row Three and now here. I wanted to contribute my thoughts on the two movies discussed here, but why bother. There are hundreds of people offering their opinions all over the internet, but all I seem to find is more of your nonsensical diatribes. It's time to move elsewhere. Maybe my absense will give you more room to express your ideas. Good luck with that, but I want to learn and understand movies better and I'm never going to do that here.

Anonymous said...


Well Henrik, first off, thanks for clarifying that you're not siding with me due to my love of middle-of-the-road cinema. Whatever that even means.

Funny that you write an essay length, hate filled rant about how anyone who doesn't like Shyamalan is an asshole, yet you constantly attack anyone who likes Spielberg. You're like an abusive message board Father telling his message board children that they'll like what he likes or else they'll get the belt. Do you black out as you're writing these posts? Do you wake up afterwards in another city, unaware of how you got there?

So I guess you are the only one who's got good taste. If people don't like what you like, they're assholes, but you can shit on what everyone else likes. Understood.

Sorry man. Although you have some good points here and there, in the end you sound like an angry teenager.

Having said that, thanks for listening!

Henrik said...

I admit to last nights comments being written under the influence... Maybe the tone was a little harsh, but whatever. I don't mean to scare you away snowleopard, but your quick dismissal of my opinion pissed me off.

Henrik said...

And the composer is named Christopher Young. My trivia awareness failed me.

Anonymous said...

Change that to alcoholic abusive message board father.

Judge Judy would not be impressed.

Anonymous said...

I really liked Funny Games and the way that it indicts the viewer. One thing that I disagreed with was the discussion of who has the power. I heard someone say that it was the director and someone else countered that it was in fact the characters who has the power in the film (sorry I don't remember who said what.). The feeling that I remember most from this film was guilt; because, my interpretation of the fourth wall breaks was that I, the viewer, was the one with the real power. I had the remote all along, and the characters took great pains to tell me that if I continued to watch what would happen. So it was like, I was literally drawn into the script, I was god, and all I had to do was hit pause and the family would somehow continue to live, but the "evil" in me, in humankind, wants to see the accident, wants to chase the ambulance, all the while failing to recognize for whom the bell tolls. Ultimately, because of our apathy, those two little pricks are going to come knocking on our door. So, for me, the act of watching this film was like some kind of Kafkaesque trial. The charge arrived in my mailbox via netflix, the courtroom was my living room, the disc was the prosecutor, and ultimately I was guilty.

Ultimately I think Funny Games is truth at 24 fps. He's saying this sort of thing is happening right now somewhere. There are home invasions. There are more and more evil people in the world because increasingly were all just a bunch of assholes sitting around with our thumbs up our asses, relinquishing our power because that is what we've been taught to do.

Could it be that, secretly, Haneke hopes people who've seen this version won't subject themselves to another, shot for shot, remake of it, in effect wasting another couple of hours of their lives? He's taking great pains to tell us that this is a shot for shot remake, just as the characters let us know what will happen during the film. Are we continuing to be tested even after the film has ended a decade ago? Will we still be guilty? Or could he hope that he got through to some people and they are out being good neighbours, establishing community, making the world a place where this sort of thing is a little more difficult to happen?

I don't know.

Also, I would recommend to anyone who wants to see another Haneke to check out "La Pianiste" with Isabelle Hupert.

Anonymous said...

Fat Milo,
well said. And you've perfectly captured what I don't like about the film.
Haneke has made a really effective and scary horror movie but then points the finger and indites the audience for watching such a low brow disreputable film.

It's like Haneke can't make a genre film without concocting some shrill high-falutin social message to justify it.

I really like Funny Games on one level. And then on another level I find it really phony and objectionable.

Anonymous said...

I didnt listen to the Funny Games discussion - probably the first time in well, forever, I've skipped over a Film Junk or RowThree/MoviePatron talk. I fully intend to see the remake opening day before I see the older one - nothing to do with it being done with Americans, just want to see one on the big screen - I'd rather have a big screen experience without the other one or spoilers from it fresh in my head. If they werent both from the same director I may have done otherwise.

Kurt Halfyard said...

Drewbacca: ON racism/stereotyping in LADY IN THE WATER.

Is the differences just semantics here? I think the broad and lazy typecasting of the 'Jewish Lady' the "Mexican Sisters" and the shouting Chinese Mother and "love-you-long-time" daughter is pretty low.

It's quite irrelevent whether M. Night is a minority or not. Being a minority isn't a get-out-of-jail-free-card when doing the sort of stereo typing that goes on here.

It bothered me in the way that Andy Rooney plays the stereotype in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S or how Rob Schneider plays characters in Adam Sandler Vehicles. It's just lazy. Throw up a bunch of 2-D stereo types instead of actually developing characters.

Even with the fairy-tale convention that everyone had a role or type, this seems lazy in the writing department.

Kurt Halfyard said...

On FUNNY GAMES - Well said Milo, but those reasons are exactly why I really dig FUNNY GAMES, or for that matter much of Lars Von Trier or Gaspar Noe's work. I like bringing an analytical edge to genre entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Rusty James,
I can totally see your point of view. But, I think there is another way that you can think about it. Didn't breaking the fourth wall come out of the tradition of writers like Brecht and Beckett. Writers who saw the realism movement as a form of tyrannical control? I think Haneke is following in this tradition. He would have to be a pretty shallow person to go through all the trouble that making a film just to poke fun at his audience. Instead of thinking that Haneke is saying "Ha, ha, my film is manipulating you, I can make you feel whatever I want.", I tend to look at artists like Haneke saying "All media is extremely manipulative, watch how easy it is for me to press your buttons." In a way, this is really the nicest form of control because it acknowledges you and doesn't try to manipulate you without you being aware of it. It's sort of like Magrite's Pipe paintings right? ( A picture of a Pipe with a sign under it saying 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe' (This is not a pipe.)) I think the breakers of the fourth wall like Haneke that are doing it (hopefully) for a large purpose are brief, painful moments of truth then we sink back down again into a sea of intoxicating verisimilitude. It's like Plato's parable of the Cave. There is no coming to consciousness without pain. What we hate more than being manipulated is realizing that we're being manipulated.

@Kurt Halfyard--
I'm a big fan of Von Trier too. I really love 'The Idiots' and thought his 'Medea' was beautiful. I hope that he isn't painting himself in a corner with his rules and dogma though. I haven't had a chance to see anything by Gaspar Noe's do you have any recommendations?

Anonymous said...

Kurt, I think you might've mixed up mine and Milo's comments. Not sure, but Milo didn't attack the film at all.

I also like Funny Games immensely (more so after your commentary actually. I've always liked that 12 min interlude but you really broke it down for me)

However, I like it with a huge caveatte. I don't like Haneke's "post-modern" scolding.

Milo, Yes Haneke would have to be very shallow to do that. And in fact I do think Capitol A Art is very shallow.
"All media is manipulative" Hitchcock certaintly would've agreed. And if you have that great power, not only to make people feel but also think, why waste time pointing it out, and analyzing it. Why bother being self reflexive when you can create?

It's almost like I'm delivering the antithesis to what Henrik was saying only a few posts ago. It's uncanny how well these films compliment each other.

I'd recommend IRREVERSIBLE as one of the best films of this decade. I think he only has two films (and some shorts) his other one's great too. Kurt and I disagree about whether IRREVERSIBLE is a beautiful film. I say yes, it is all the more beautiful for it's brutality.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forget to mention Von Trier (who, by the way abandoned the Dogma stuff after Idiots, his first and only Dogma film).
As I've said before he's one of my favorite directors working today. But he's not like Haneke at all. Well... he's certaintly self reflexive. But while his character's are often avatars for ideas (even in his documentaries, awesome) his films are sincere and awesome in scope. His pompus artsy-fartsiness is only a ruse.

He has great things to say about:
-the creative process
-the messiah complex
-an artists responsibility to his characters
-the crushing weight of ego
-the incongruity between the old and new testiment
-god's misanthropy
-the virtue of self destruction
-christ's redemption

You guys should definitely do a Von Trier Movie Club. Either Idiots or Dogville.

Henrik said...

I'd recommend doing Europa, since it's better than both The Idiots and Dogville.

Anonymous said...

Well Henrik that's subjective. But I don't know if the point necessarily is to do the best films.
I think the two I mentioned are important milestones in his career, that's why I picked them.

I have not seen Europa.

Anonymous said...

Rusty James,
Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check it out.

Kurt Halfyard said...


There are some tenuous connections between Noe's I Stand Alone and Irreversible, mainly the intro of Irreversible which will make more sense if you've seen I Stand Alone, which stars fascinating French actor Philippe Nahon, and for that matter, Carne, his 1991 short film. All three are very, (very) loosely connected by that character.

Also, I liked the literature/theatre connection. FOr some reason, 4th wall breaking is more tolerated in Theatre and Literature.

I like the analytical side of Haneke. I think he really does have his cake and eat it two (and now twice with the 2008 version) with Funny Games. I like the film because if its particular uniqueness. At the moment, he is the closes DNA meld of Kubrick, Hitchcock and Goddard, particularly with FG.

Henrik said...

Europa proves that Von Trier is a director and not just a scientist. It's amazing 3/4 of the way, then the last 30 minutes or so sucks, but the ending again is great.

Anonymous said...

Hey all,

I just reinstalled my system and forgot to backup my podcasts. I can't find the url for the movie club podcast. Can someone post it here? Thanks.

drewbacca said...

Hey Fat Milo,

This IS the movie club podcast. All the links are right here. I'm confused as to what you're looking for(?).

Anonymous said...


I used to have a RSS URL that I could plug into amarok that would allow me to automatically download the latest podcasts. I tried using the URL presented by the RSS feed symbol in the address bar, but this did not give me the list of podcasts as it should. As an example, here is the podcast feed for filmjunk Any ideas?

drewbacca said...


Sean's been in charge of the RSS feed. Contact him over at filmjunk and I'm sure he can help you out. HE probably forgot to put the RSS feed back up on the page after the re-design. Hope that helps.

Mr B The Tech Teacher said...

Just wanted to say hi to everyone on the Movie Club, and I've throughly been enjoying your podcasts :) I started recently when I found the podcast for this show and have been working my way backwards through the previous episodes.

Personally I quite liked Lady in the Water, I found the way the characters reacted so mundanely to such an absurd and surreal situation very interesting and amusing. As you discussed in the podcast though, it really is difficult to tell just how serious Shymalan is taking himself!

On the point of "is art worth more from different artists" I would argue in the affirmative, after all wouldn't something painted by a monkey be more interesting than the same picture painted by an adult? In my opinion, at least for any real kind of "art", it is impossible to seperate the art from the artist. To know the context of the artwork, both in the general setting of the sociological climate at the time of its creation and in the more specific setting of the artist's intentions and state of mind, fundamentally change the "meaning" of the artwork. If you observe art (be it movies, music, or traditional graphical media) and take it only at face value without grasping or even looking for what's below the surface then you may as well but a nudie magazine or go to the local strip club.

Anyway, really looking forward to your next show, genius partnering of movies there and I'm dying to see what you make of it!

Eddie From Torrance said...

When is the next show coming?

Anonymous said...

Recording this week Drew.

Eddie From Torrance said...


Eddie From Torrance said...

You know what would of been cool? if in the remake of funny games the intruders were the same actors speaking in broken english.

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