I had seen this film once already, in a small screening room with some of my co-workers a few weeks ago. It was not the finished product, as the score wasn’t entirely in place and there was some editing left to do, but I still could not believe how I felt when I walked out. I thought, “M. Night Shaymalan has done it again!” Last night, riding the #1 train uptown in 100 degree heat to 65th and Broadway/Lincoln Center for the premiere of Signs at Alice Tully Hall, I couldn’t help but wonder what the experience would be like now, seeing the final version of this masterpiece with a full house of 1000+ people.
I strolled up to the white carpet, not red carpet; it was white on this night and as I got both feet on the carpet, two guys bigger than Lincoln Center combined asked if they could help me. I pulled out my invitation and told them I needed “will call” and that was it: my carpet experience was over and I was directed to the “will call” entrance. Oh well, two feet on the carpet isn’t bad. The place was mobbed with fans and press. I wandered in, got my passes and my free water and Reese’s pieces (had to stick with the alien theme here). Little by little the faces started coming in: Matthew Modine, Spike Lee, the dude who played the dad in Clueless, Joaquin Phoenix, M. Night and yes, Mel Gibson.
M. Night Shaymalan, the 31 year old writer/director of this masterpiece, as well as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, got up to the podium and introduced some key members of his team, as a well as all of the stars who were in the house. James Newton Howard was in the house – he is the cat who wrote this brilliant score that makes you feel like you’re watching Psycho all over again. Editor Barbara Tulliver was in the house – her incredible work keeps you on the edge of your seat. Production designer Larry Fulton was in the house – this guy was the mastermind who constructed the farm that the story takes place at in Pennsylvania. Keep this in mind when you watch this film: NOTHING existed where this farm and corn fields are in the film. Night continued to introduce all the players in the film (Mel, Joaquin, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones and Patricia Kalember) who were all in attendance and who all stood up to take a bow. Finally, it was time to roll and the opening credits were met by thunderous applause with the most given to M. Night’s name.
This final version was even more suspenseful and thrilling with the full addition of the music and the fast editing making you feel like it’s always the viewers point of view and that it’s your hallway you are walking down. The fast pace, the tone, the color of this film will keep you covering your eyes and not believing them at the same time. Seeing this film with the audience proved to be that of an experience not unlike the KISS reunion tour in 1996. The roof came off the joint when people screamed with fear. Then in true Night style, one minute later, the place was in hysterics at the humor being thrown at you. Folks, look for the Signs; that’s what the film is about. Sure, there is an alien theme here, but there is much more than that and this sends you home with a lot to think about. This film is tremendous and the talent of this young director is unbelievable. Once again, Night has delivered 100%. All the performances are perfect! Once again, Night’s use of the children is perfect: Rory Culkin and Abigail Beslin are perfectly cast and both deliver flawless performances. Gibson and Phoenix fill out the picture perfectly. In true Hitchcock style, Night has a cameo in this film as well, but this time, yes, a speaking part and it’s perfect for my second time seeing this film; I liked it that much more. Judging by all the screaming, laughter and applause throughout the night, I sense that everyone else got the film and this will be a huge success.
After the film, it was off the Metropolitan Club on 60th and 5th for the party. We were welcomed by two long lines of waiters and waitresses, all holding trays of wine, champagne, vodka and apple and other fruit martinis (was this Buckingham Palace?). I bee-lined right for the sushi and the pigs in blankets, then opted for the cold beer. Along the way passing Matthew Modine who was sporting a ‘do like he was currently shooting the sequel to the Doors movie and he was Ray Manzarek. I also rubbed shoulders with Alicia Silverstone (currently on Broadway in The Graduate). All the A-list stars came out to say hello to Night. Bottom line, when there is a successful director, then stars who need that jump start will show up and just say “hi.” That explains Bruce Willis making a quick entrance, saying hello to Night, taking a photo and then making a quick exit. Or seeing, that’s right, Debbie Gibson talking to Night (talk about jump starting a career, wasn’t she just in Playboy? Or was that Tiffany?). After that, I found my cue to say hello to Night and we chatted. He seemed genuinely impressed with our efforts marketing the film (Night’s assistant was up at our offices) and we complimented him on yet another brilliant piece of work. The guy is very cool. Period. Joaquin was at the bar next to us and Mel was hanging at the table with some pals. A lot of reporters were around, as well as photographers. Highlight of the night: some reporter was taking notes all night from the interviews he had done, and he apparently lost his sheet of paper on the floor, then Joaquin walked by and picked it up and asked Jon Cohen if it was his; Jon said no, but maybe he now has the official scoop on what will be on page 6. Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon etc..) was also in the house; the cat still has the same trademark glasses, those wide lenses and more power to him. I love a cat who will stay retro.
All in all, an exciting evening in this wonderful city of ours and another beautiful story and wonderful suspenseful thriller written and directed by M. Night Shaymalan. This cat is for real. Move over Hitchcock, this is the second coming.
This film opens August 2; do not miss it…and do not see it alone!