Lady in the Water ★★★★

LADY IN THE WATER (M. Night Shyamalan) - overlapping, echoing attempts at meaning making, giving us myths and their interpretations and the interpretation of the interpretations, which M. Night links to the twinned concerns of how stories make meaning and how we make meaning out of our own lives; how we use stories to FIND the meaning that's already there within our lives. Along with SIGNS, his most baldly direct movie - the one where the subtext becomes the text: the directness was embarrassing to audiences when it came out, leading to his retreat back into genre, into making subterranean movies: not "safer" movies (how could a movie about a suicide epidemic be the "safer" option?) but movies where his ideas remained hidden, embedded in the mise-en-scene and not spelled out in the screenplay, where their sincerity made them too easy a target for ridicule. What makes the movie come alive, though, aren't M. Night's big ideas, but the way he builds his shots, scenes, and performances out of little details. He's old-fashioned in the way he uses locations for their symbolic weight; the way he uses non-bravura long takes to allow shots/actors to play out emotional arcs without distraction; images that come from the border of dreams and nightmare.