Sunday, December 18, 2011

Learning To Love David Fincher

This wont hurt a bit
On the plus side he did cut Gwyneth Paltrow's head off at the end of Seven, but on the minus side he killed Newt and Hicks at the beginning of Alien 3. I don't know if those two really cancel out, Hicks was cool. 
...
Fincher got his start doing FX on Return of the Jedi and after some video work he got hired to try to bail Alien 3 out of the mess the production had fallen into. He partially succeeded and Alien 3 is not the disaster some people say it is. After A3 came the creepy and stylish serial killer drama Seven whose titles alone are better than most films. Then came The Game which was a journeyman effort about Michael Douglas having a mid life crisis and falling into a paranoid conspiracy. In 1999 Fincher's reputation was sealed with the fantastic Fight Club - a film about what it means to be a man at the close of the twentieth century. If you haven't seen Fight Club you are not a hetereosexual white male 20 - 40 living in the Western World. Fincher's next film was Panic Room which I didn't care for but I thought Zodiac (the true story of the hunt for the Zodiac killer) was a return to form if not quite in the same league as Seven. 
...
I have not seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but I have to admit that it doesn't really seem like my cup of tea at all: Fincher is not Steven Spielberg and shouldn't try to be. In fact even Steven Spielberg shouldn't try to be Steven Spielberg unless its the Steven Spielberg who made Jaws. I saw The Social Network on a plane last year and I felt that it didn't really hang together - but for that I blame Aaron Sorkin's script which was full of ad hominem stuff, non sequitors and a boring court room setting that wasn't even in a court room. (Incidentally they gave Sorkin an Oscar for this script so what do I know). 
...
Which brings me to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I had 4 major problems with the book: 1) As a locked room mystery it didn't work because we were not given all the information. 2) Cally Blomqvist's character seemed like nothing more than a middle aged male's wish fulfillment fantasy 3) Larsson wanted to have his cake and eat it too: deploring violence against women but giving us lots of it in lurid sadomasochistic detail. 4) The bad prose, extreme length and heavy handed cliches made the book pretty dull (I give Larsson a pass on this one because if he had lived the novel would have been given a tighter edit).
...
From the opening titles of Fincher's Dragon Tattoo it becomes clear that we are not in Sweden but in that dark, weird, edgy, introverted territory that should be known as Finchlandia. The palate is muted and the furtive camera work makes even a pristine snow field seem sinister. The acting is low key but believable and always engrossing and the story has been tightened into an economical three acts. I'm not a fan of Daniel Craig but he is reasonably effective here and the actress playing Lisbeth is convincing. But for me the vibe is the star in this flick. Some of the mood seems to have been cribbed from Let The Right One In which is fine by me because I loved that creepy picture. With the right material Fincher is really able to show off his technical ability and his skill at directing actors. As the film played out I found myself forgetting the rather silly book and all the other baggage I had with Dragon Tattoo and instead I found myself falling into the story. The hooks went in and I didn't mind them being in. Incredibly this Hollywood remake of a Swedish film of a dodgy novel is Fincher's best movie in some time and although it is no masterpiece (and far too luridly violent) it is a considerable improvement over its source material.