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Reeling: When Good Directors Go Bad

Reeling: When Good Directors Go Bad

In his regular “Reeling” column, Austin American-Statesman film critic Chris Garcia takes a close look at three wunderkind directors, and asks “Fluke or flunk?” He zeroes in on M. Night Shyamalan, Darren Aronofsky, and Richard Kelly… analyzing how each had initial success only to wind up recently with head-scratching critical (and, in some cases, commercial) misfires. Garcia writes:

We can condemn these young filmmakers for their hype-induced arrogance and over-striving, or we can applaud them for following their muses, making what speaks to them. You can only fail if you try, though failure in Hollywood can be unusually visible and vicious.

Other young directors have stumbled badly after early glory, gotten up and moved on to even bigger success. Steven Soderbergh took the goodwill he earned with “sex, lies and videotape” and squandered it on a quartet of bombs, including “Kafka” and “Underneath,” only to come back with “Out of Sight,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Traffic” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” among other hits. Kevin Smith followed his no-budget phenom “Clerks” with the studio-backed “Mallrats,” alienating fans, who cried “Sellout!” But he bounced back with “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma.”

Supposedly untouchable after successive smashes “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” Quentin Tarantino fouled with “Four Rooms,” a quartet of colossally unfunny comedies directed by Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell. The feature film careers of the once-promising Anders and Rockwell never recovered.

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