For 1 Year, 100 Movies, contributor/filmmaker Trey Hock is watching all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year. His reactions to each film are recorded here twice a week until the year (and list) is up!
“The Sixth Sense?” Really? Hmm, I’m not so sure about this one. This is the first film that I truly don’t believe belongs on this list. I was underwhelmed with “The French Connection” but at least it had some historical context that gave it weight. I can’t think of a compelling reason to put “The Sixth Sense” on the AFI 100 movies list, and I have a few reasons why it shouldn’t be on it.
Let me start by saying that I actually really liked “The Sixth Sense” when it came out. It is an enjoyable, well constructed, thriller and after having re-watched it, I can say that it still is pretty good. Bruce Willis’ performance is solid. Haley Joel Osment must be from another planet in order to give so compelling a performance at so young an age. Even M. Night Shyamalan’s direction is not the heavy-handed, wretch-inducing, train wreck became in subsequent films. Pretty good, but the AFI 100 years, 100 movies list shouldn’t make room for pretty good.
I do have difficulty separating Shyamalan’s later work from his debut effort. Since I liked “The Sixth Sense” enough, I tried to stick with M. Night through his later works. I sat through “Unbreakable,” “Signs,” “The Village,” and “Lady in the Water.”
Each was a little worse than the last, yet each still showed some spark or potential that was always squandered. Still that tiny bit of potential kept me returning like a battered co-dependent to Shyamalan’s films. That is until “The Happening.” This stupid, overwrought, death-porn snuff film was so awful that I think I’m done with Shyamalan, and maybe Philadelphia in general.
This brings me to why ‘The Sixth Sense” should not be on the list. I will try to remain calm and clear headed.
This film is not just homage, but a straight hijacking of Alfred Hitchcock’s style. The compelling camera angles and progression of events ring with an amateur’s imitation of a master.
One could argue that Hitchcock is already well represented with four films on the list, but if it’s between a fifth Hitchcock film or “The Sixth Sense,” we could make room for “Psycho” or “The Birds.”
Once the gimmick is revealed the movie loses impact on successive viewings. Once I know that Cole (Osment) can see dead people, and Malcolm (Willis) is dead, I become more fascinated by the ways Shyamalan tricked us the first time than the story, which is simple and okay, but nothing special.
The way Shyamalan tricks the viewer starts to show through with each viewing. How the trick is performed becomes clearer and clearer, until you no longer see a magician, but some odd motions that no longer have an effect on the viewer.
“The Sixth Sense” employs an accepted film technique, the compression of time, to trick the viewer into believing that Malcolm exists in real space. In much the same way that we don’t typically see characters enter every room, drive to their next destination, or go to the bathroom, yet we accept that all of these things happen outside the lines of the story, “The Sixth Sense” never shows Malcolm enter a room or interact with any character other than Cole once he gets shot. Once you start noticing this aspect of the film, it becomes a bit of a distraction. I apologize ahead of time to anyone who’s viewing enjoyment has been ruined by this last paragraph.
This is a film that my wife, Jaime, owns. She got it free with the purchase of her computer.
If there is anyone who is still defending Shyamalan’s work, or anyone with a particularly compelling argument as to why “The Sixth Sense” has a place on AFI’s 100 years, 100 movies list, even if you just have a great story of the first time you saw the movie, lets hear it.
Next up #88 “Bringing Up Baby” (1938)