I have never seen a Fincher film that I really liked, Benjaming Button was the only one that got close and thats because I thought the story was interesting. I always feel as though the way he shoots films is unimaginative, and most of his work is undistinguishable from any other big budget stock director. I view most of his films at an arms distance and never feel as though I can get attached to the characters. For instance Fight Club stirred no feelings for me only a big wtf at the end, and The Game felt as though it never quite let me in I just stood on the outside confused. It’s these reasons I don’t view Fincher as an auteur, he makes me feel nothing but apathy for his characters and uses an ambiguous shot style.
An interesting quote from Fincher:
“I have a philosophy about the two extremes of filmmaking. The first is the “Kubrick way,” where you’re at the end of an alley in which four guys are kicking the shit out of a wino. Hopefully, the audience members will know that such a scenario is morally wrong, even though it’s not presented as if the viewer is the one being beaten up; it’s more as if you’re witnessing an event. Inversely, there’s the “Spielberg way,” where you’re dropped into the middle of the action and you’re going to live the experience vicariously – not only through what’s happening, but through the emotional flow of what people are saying. It’s a much more involved style. I find myself attracted to both styles at different times, but mostly I’m interested in just presenting something and letting people decide for themselves what they want to look at."
You’re still oversimplifying the premise. Presumably, disregarding the supposed dementia, while he maintains the memories of his past experiences (as an older man), his actual brain is still getting younger along with the rest of his body, so as his body gets younger, he brain would get younger, and therefore his mental processes would reflect those of his physical age. These are developmental issues—teenagers don’t think like adults; children don’t think like adults or teenagers; toddlers don’t think like older children,teenagers or adults; babies don’t think toddlers, older children, teenagers, or adults. This is the whole point of the film—Benjamin and Daisy only really have a few years together because they being pulled in opposite directions—physically and mentally—by aging from opposite ends of the spectrum, so “ripenss is all.” If the difference in age was purely physical it would be far less of a barrier to them being together.
I do think that Fincher’s films are best experienced in theaters. I first saw Se7en when it came out, in a theater, and it was almost like a completely different film from all the times I’ve watched it on dvd and tv since then. His use of extremes in lighting makes more sense on the big screen; on tv his films can often seem very badly lit. And then you just feel more cornered and immersed watching his films on a big screen.
I completely agree, Justin. Zodiac looks OK on TV, but it was absolutely amazing on the big screen.
I second that opinion…surely that’s true of Se7en and also of Zodiac and even Panic Room (I missed Fight Club in the theater, but loved it on TV)
I saw The Game in the theater but didn’t care for it at all…well made and with a killer idea, but somehow boring (don’t kill me for that…lol)
I disagree with those who don’t think of Fincher as an auteur. He’s been compiling a list of credits that I think bear his distinctive quality (dark, foreboding, anti-hero hero) I have to confess that I didn’t see Benjamin Button! It passed me by during its run.
Has anyone watched THE MAKING OF ALIEN 3 and/or the director’s cut from a few years back? Just a brutal debut film to have undertaken.
Yeah. Hell of a way to start a career.
Some really solid stuff here about Fincher. I think a very early post by Leaves of Grass paints a very precise and informative reason why (as some have questioned) he hasn’t been inducted into the ‘auteur’ group of filmmakers. I agree, we often do place the directors and filmmakers we admire into groups that they might not otherwise belong simply because we favor them. I’m of the notion that it should be a damn site more difficult to get into a special group or honor as that tends to validate the importance of the group — very much like how difficult it is to become a member of the ASC. Partly because you’re voted in by your peers, other cinematographers, and partly because they don’t want to just throw the rank around carelessly.
There are a lot of auteurs working today who just haven’t proven themselves over the long haul.
So which one would you guys say is his most trancendental piece?
From another thread, Santino said,
Here’s how I would rank Fincher:
2. The Social Network
4. The Game
5. Alien 3
6. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
7. Panic Room
8. Fight Club
9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I actually don’t mind Panic Room. When I first saw it, I hated it and it made me very angry (particularly the writing and the motivations of the characters – Forrest Whitaker’s character being the most obvious). But over the years it’s become a guilty pleasure of mine. I still admit that it’s not a very good movie (and maybe even a pretty dumb movie). But I enjoy watching it nonetheless. I find myself watching it maybe once a year or so. I just enjoy the space, the environment that he creates in this film (and the idea of a panic room in your apartment is kinda cool).
The thing about all of Fincher’s films is that he is very good at creating a unique and interesting world. It’s hard to really articulate but I genuinely like rewatching his films because of this aspect. I feel the same way about The Game and Alien 3, two films that I admit probably aren’t that great (although I do love the idea behind The Game – that something like this could actually happen). As far as critical assessment, the only films I will actually argue and defend are Zodiac and The Social Network (and to a lesser extent Seven, given the impact it had on the genre).
Brad expressed shock at The Fight Club at 7. I agree with that.
I don’t know if Fincher creates “unique interesting worlds,” but his films look good. I think technically he’s a solid filmmaker.
As for Panic Room, if it’s just a guilty pleasure (i.e., you don’t think it’s very good, but you like it), there’s nothign much more to say, I guess. I thought it was a terrible film, but maybe I missed something.
Btw, I tend to divide Fincher’s films into two periods: a) the existentialist films (Se7en, Fight Club, The Game; maybe Benjanim Button?) and b)…his, uh, other films (not sure what to call them; The Social Network, Zodiac. The Panic Room might be a transitional film.)
It appears I’ve already commented on this thread…
It’s funny reading over old comments.
Regarding Fight Club, it just didn’t do it for me. There was so much talk about the film that when I finally got around to it, I couldn’t help but be unimpressed. That isn’t to say the hype ruined it for me (I do try to go into a film with an open mind) but at the time I just felt that I’d seen this thing before. I mean, you got Fight Club, Angel Heart, Secret Window, High Tension, Identity, the list goes on. At some point this dual persona thing gets old. I think by the time I saw Fight Club, which was years after it came out, I was tired of this gimmick. But I would like to see the movie again and give it a reconsideration.
At some point this dual persona thing gets old. I think by the time I saw Fight Club, which was years after it came out, I was tired of this gimmick.
But I think that’s only one part of the film, and maybe not the best part. I haven’t seen the film in a long time, but what stands out—besides the filmmaking—is the notion of being numb from living a life that is too comfortable and safe. This resonated with me, and I think this theme resonated with a lot of viewers—almost to the point of tapping into the Zeitgeist.
The Game was a fantastic, well crafted, well directed film by Fincher that doesn’t get enough credit.
Jazz – You might be right. I think this is why I’ve been meaning to give it a rewatch. Other than Button, it’s the only Fincher film I haven’t rewatched.
@JAZZALOHA; it’s been too long for me to recall Panic Room though in retrospect I too was first intrigued by the idea of this safe room in your home for such purposes. I actually looked into the phenomenon, the actual rooms and it’s pretty amazing the extent to which we wall ourselves up in dreams of invulnerability when our own bodies are the weakest part of the equation.
I love The Game except for the ending. Douglas is perfect here, able to achieve a level of believable that is at once convincingly bold and vulnerable at the same time. His run of films through the 80s and 90s are staggeringly simple yet some of the most effective, memorable character work in print. Like young Pacino and De Niro, the run they had until running got harder and the money got easier. That’s a whole other conversation. The Game is consistently dismissed as a lesser work when it is deserving of no less than a second or tenth screening before serious critique.
@SANTINO; I see your point and often express the very same sentiment about M. Night Shymalan’s run of films. He made a straight line to dull, unimpressive and insulting after we saw dead people with him. Signs and Unbreakable were his last good films period. It got to be a cheap, dime store gimmick that was only mildly interesting because of the work of his actors (re: Signs/Unbreakable) and I can’t imagine anyone thinking anything positive about The Village or Lady In The Water.
And the notion of numb you mentioned, exactly. I always thought that was such an interesting element that I could have watched the entire film from that angle alone, without ever going where Fincher went.
I’m just throwing rocks now, but Button was a crime. If you go back and really pay attention, the writing is incredibly bad and all the fuss over Pitt and the makeup and for what?
@Tony, Rory and Santino
Re: The Game
I liked the concept, but, from what I recall, I thought the way the film dealt with the concept, especially the ultimate ideas and insights the film offers, disappointed me—and this is the big difference between this film and Fight Club and Se7en.
Re: The Panic Room
Do people think this was a straight thriller or something more symbolic, dealing with existential themes or touching on Zeitgeist? At first I thought it was the latter, but by the end of the film, I concluded that it was mostly a straight thriller—and on that level, I didn’t think the film was very effective.
OK, re: Panic Room, I would say that, like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, it’s a film that Fincher took primarily to work with a single technical challenge :
Interviewer: One of the documentaries says that by the end of the shoot two or three people needed to be escorted to their cars because they were at their wit’s end. Was that because of the nature of this film, that it was shot on one location?
Fincher: It’s not just [that it’s] one location. They shot a lot of ‘’Heaven Can Wait’’ at the L.A. Coliseum, but I don’t think it drove anybody berserk. A lot of people just didn’t respond well to the close quarters. Don’t shoot for 100 days in one place, that’s what’s to be learned from that. Figure out ways not to. They probably had that same kind of problem on ‘’The Shining’’ — that’s all in one house. [But] at least they get out, they get to run through a maze.
Interviewer: What did you learn from making this movie?
Fincher: [Laughs.] I learned that you can’t make a movie just because it’ll be hard [laughs]. My agent sent me this script and said, ’’You’re not going to want to read this because it all takes place in one house, and it’s a logistical nightmare,‘’ and I was just, ’’I might be interested in that!‘’ I’m a little bit of a contrarian. I kind of like challenges and then you end up TWO YEARS into the challenge that you’ve made for yourself and you just go ’’Nothing’s worth this.’’
zeitgeist reading = cocooning
>>Fight Club, Angel Heart, Secret Window, High Tension, Identity, the list goes on. At some point this dual persona thing gets old.<<
I guess it helped that I saw Fight Club before most of those other films (except Angel Heart, which didn’t make much of an impression.) I think the real secret of Fight Club is how damn funny it is. Its the blackest comedy since Strangelove and its not only the “twist” that shouldn’t be taken at face value.
The one Fincher movie I disliked was Benjamin Button. Given its premise, it unfolded exactly the way I expected, with not one interesting diversion from point A to the inevitable point B
My Fincher rankings
1) Fight Club
4) The Social Network
5) The Game
6) Panic Room
7) Alien 3
8) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
“Its the blackest comedy since Strangelove”
Ummm…Monty Python anyone? How can Fight Club be a black comedy when not even the book was excellent as a black comedy to begin with? Fincher attempted to recreate a universally defiled world, a crispy post-1984 environment (only this time, the “rebels” are the real twats) parallelizing it with our own dysfunctional reality but it neither came off as black and definitely not the comedy you’d “imagine” would satirize corps and execs. I’ll give it props for being a decent satire though, albeit completely random in where it wanted to go!
1: Se7en 4
2: Zodiac 3,5
3: The Social Network 3
4: Fight Club 3
5: Alien 3 3
6: The Game 3
7: Benjamin “Forrest Gump” Button 2,5
8: Panic “I want to copy Hitchcock but all I copied was Hitchcock’s student De Palma” Room 2
stop the presses. dimitris just gave fight club ‘props’ :P
^ As I said elsewhere Ruby, Fincher is not a Michael Bay, credit where it’s due at times has to go. Fight Club is just a decent little film, no more no less, much like Terminator 2 let’s say in its own genre, haha….but hardly one of the top 100 90’s films in my book.
The Fight Club multiple plot has gotten old but the Seven serial killer hasn’t?
“How can Fight Club be a black comedy when not even the book was excellent as a black comedy to begin with?”
Oh, that’s an easy one: Maybe because of script rewrites and the fact that the adaptation permits two streams of information to be going on simultaneously between voice-over and image?
Maybe because I laugh my ass off at it every time. And feel pretty depressed too.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to ask everyone what they think the funniest Fincher’s are, in order…which exhibit his best deadpan noir-comedy directing chops.
ALIEN 3 / PANIC ROOM tie
Fincher: I learned that you can’t make a movie just because it’ll be hard [laughs].
I don’t often put a lot of weight into what filmmakers say about specific films, but this seems revealing to me. Based on my memory of the film, the comment makes sense to me, as I felt there wasn’t very much to the film—both in terms of an effective, conventional thriller or something addressing serious themes and issues (like Fight Club, The Game and Se7en). I left the theater thinking: what was he trying to do? The answer: make a film shot on one location. That seems right to me, as the film (or what it suggests about the script) doesn’t seem to have much else.
Having said that, your remark about cocooning does make me slightly curious to see if the film actually does deal with that issue effectively.
But, as you know, I think the filmmakers do something very different and original with the serial killer. Is there another film like it? I can’t think of any.
I don’t remember the black comedy, but my memory is so hazy at this point. I’ll definitely look for this if I see the film again.
There are a little moments of humor that I like in his films. In Se7en, when the two detectives are looking at the books Doe has borrowed, Mills (Pitt) is reading off titles and authors. He pronounces Marquis de Sade—as “sharday,” as in the singer, and after reading, “Of Human Bondage,” he gives Somerset(.) a questioning, expectant look. Then Somerset says, “Not what you think.”
“But, as you know, I think the filmmakers do something very different and original with the serial killer. Is there another film like it? I can’t think of any.”
I somewhat agree with that . . . however I would say the same thing about the “multiple personality” angle thing in Fight Club, it’s an important plot point (Tyler, in a way, is a sort of maguffin), but it’s fairly incidental to the main thrust of the film.
Fight Club, to me, is a movie of its time. I enjoyed it a lot back then, but it’s a pretty shallow riff on a few dumbed down ideas.
Fincher’s movies don’t stand the test of time for me. I can’t even watch Seven anymore, although i enjoyed The Game the last time i watched it, even if it felt more like a stunt than i remembered.
however I would say the same thing about the “multiple personality” angle thing in Fight Club, it’s an important plot point (Tyler, in a way, is a sort of maguffin), but it’s fairly incidental to the main thrust of the film.
If you’re interested I try to defend Se7en in this thread.