Released in the arguable peak year of a particularly turn-of-the-century form of social consumerism undercut by social discontent, Fight Club is uncommonly similar to fellow Class of 99-er The Matrix. Like the era-defining Wachowski sci-fi smorgasbord of high-flying kicks and high-falling ideas, David Fincher’s conniving would-be exercise in cinematic post-modernism is a startling technical showpiece well-versed in genre mechanics that curdles under the weight of its oppressive, over-baked interpretation of social anomie. Except, while The Matrix eventually gave in and realized it was merely an action film putting on airs, Fight Club, adapted by Jim Uhls from the book by Chuck Palahniuk, takes refuge in its pretentious vision of society until the very end. It would seem that the great, unfortunate secret of the cinematic year of 1999 is that a great many of its biggest hits are stunning visual showpieces hiding deeply incompatible or incomprehensible screenplays (it is no surprise then that the year’s best film, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, succeeds primarily because it is entirely about its visuals, rather than an attempt to marry those visuals to a needlessly over-baked narrative). Continue reading
Yet 1995 was not simply a year of corporate indulgence; it was also a period where the rampant nihilist streak inherent to much of the cinema of the late ’90s and the 2000s and still running wild today came to fruition in the eyes of one music video director…
You don’t get too far these days without a David Fincher film tying up the woodworks of fall with a Gothic gloom a mile wide that it hides nothing but (briefly) its own self-boredom. Fincher’s aesthetic is so wound-up and ready for battle that it’s hard to remember a time when his way was a new arbiter for the sort of caustic, nihilist, curdled noir not seen since the Atomic Age. Once upon a time, he was one of many young upstarts responsible form the gloomy, grim ’90s – back when gloomy and grim were actually artistic statements rather than cynical cash-grabs. Moving from the music video world to the gaping hole that was the solemn sigh of Alien 3 without much distinction, Seven was a whole other beast, capturing the baroque loss of his previous film and using it rather than abusing it. And what use! Seven is among the finest American films of its decade, bruised and hurting but always nervous and fighting back, thriving on a tension between lively pugnaciousness and mournful wistfulness that never ceases to sting.
Doom-and-gloom maestro David Fincher has taken the 2000s and 2010s as his time to find respect, and as we all know, that is one of the worst things for a filmmaker to do. Mainstream success is one of the surest trains to cinematic acquiescence, and there ain’t nothing like acquiescence to numb the lifeblood of cinematic passion. Sure, 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was his only overtly Oscarbaity film, and he did follow it up with his second best work, 2010’s The Social Network. But recent years have seen him look back to his lurid earlier days with nostalgia and a drive to recreate his darker and more nihilistic earlier efforts, and his efforts have proven one thing: slick has replaced sick, and Fincher’s desire to find commercial success has smothered any breathing room for his pitch-black cinematic treats to truly submerse themselves in operatic melancholy and deranged lunacies.
The results haven’t been less than good, but the magic of the hungry, go-for-broke Se7en, produced on the fringes in a special place of not-quite-social-acceptance, have given way to a corporate variant on midnight cinema, an overly safe interpretation of something that absolutely should be nowhere within striking distance of safety. The Middlebrows want to get dark without actually going to a dangerous place, to drive to the edge without going over, and to witness human wrath and envy from the safety of their home, and Fincher has made the mistake of obliging them.
This post being in honor of the upcoming release of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, his most recent descent into the slickly sick world of melding the realm of decaying and grotesque pulp fiction with the middlebrow machinations of Oscarbait.
It’s a prime irony that a director birthed in the mucky slums of trashy genre cinema took on a book that deals almost exclusively in the lurid kitsch of BDSM, self-hate, melodrama, and open-faced pulpy eccentricity and, of all things, he produced something that feels amorphously like it desperately wants to be an Oscar film. Somewhere along the way, David Fincher became a famous big-budget director and, one year after achieving true greatness with The Social Network, success got to his head, and he forgot that deconstructing journalistic identity, vis a vis Zodiac, and directing a glossy exploitation film are two different things. Continue reading
The Social Network proves one thing clearly: the internet is a dangerous place. Many people are aware of the dangers which afflict people using the internet, but few are aware of the consequences of creating an internet site, most of which derive from the simple fact that many sites, like seemingly everything else in the world, are businesses. And like many businesses, they’re prone to be run by egotistical, asocial madmen in human clothes who desire, above all, to shape society to their own terms when they may have had trouble fitting in to its. Due to this, the internet can lead to great riches as well as a number of far more devastating and de-humanizing effects, and The Social Network, the excellent David Fincher-directed adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, deals with both sides of the coin in a fascinating, invigorating, and often scary manner. Continue reading