06 August 2006

Fincher (1995-1997)

1995 - Se7en - I remember watching this the weekend it came out. Serial killer flick, seven deadly sins, directed by some music video guy. That's about all I knew about it. I'd gone to see the film with a friend who I was visiting at a college. Both fans of Nine Inch Nails, we'd been listening to The Downward Spiral and its remix albums at loud volumes in his dorm room and car. As soon as the tortured open credits began, backed by NIN's grinding remix "closer (precursor)", I knew I was in for something that spoke to my sensibilities.

I wasn't disappointed. Ostensibly a buddy-cop crime thriller, Se7en destroys this conventional framework by questioning the nature of evil in the world. It's here to stay, so what do you do about it? Do you try to righteously destroy it? Do you channel your anger into battling it as best you can? Or do you simply "pick up the pieces"?

The production and sound design for this film are excellent. Both come together to create a horribly depressing atmosphere for the nameless city. Rain, rust and rot abound. The poorly lit gluttony house is beautiful in its decay. John Doe's apartment is a masterpiece, as are his actually written-in diaries. Sight and sound convincingly create a city composed of the worst parts of every major city in the United States.

Howard Shore is not John Williams. He doesn't make movie music that you whistle to yourself. Instead, he creates music that can be organically woven into the sound design of the film. His simple, low string sounds make the nameless city breath with depressed sighs.

This is one of the few films to ever elicit a physical reaction from me in the theater (Begotten was another). The path to the climax, starting with the conversation in the long car ride out into the middle of nowhere, steadily and confidently builds tension. As the climax approached, much to my surprise, I felt myself getting nervous. Movies never make me nervous or jumpy, yet my heart rate and breathing quickened. Eleven years later, it's still a helluva scene and contains some of best acting Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are ever going to commit to celluloid.

Better than my other, favorite serial killer films: American Psycho, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, M, and The Silence of the Lambs. Out of more than 500 movies over the past two-and-a-half years, this is only the fifth that I've given my highest rating to. I wouldn't change a thing about it. (10/10)

1997 - The Game - Both my friend and I agreed that this film doesn't hold up to multiple viewings. Knowing that this really is just a game forces you to watch the entire middle portion of the film with a mixture of cynicism and incredulity. There are just too many hard-to-believe pieces to the game that can't be easily swallowed. A physical and psych test could only get a company so far.

More ambiguity might have given repeat watchers something more to chew on. The fact that Claire heard Nicholas' password for his Swiss bank account could've been played with a bit. Instead of Nicholas "getting the girl" at the end, a slight implication that she was running off with his fortune might have been interesting.

This film is kind of a cruel version of Groundhog Day. Fate tortures a lonely, cynical man until he is forced to change himself. Instead of learning piano and how to love, Nicholas gets the legacy of his suicidal and distant father beat out of him. It didn't actually work that well. Being stripped of his father's fortune, having his father's mansion trashed and being forced to sell his father's watch didn't do it for him. He needed to be pushed into a suicide attempt before, presumably, he was free of his father's shadow. More interesting than therapy, anyway.

The film is technically well-shot, lit and scored. I particularly liked the depressingly nostalgic 8mm shots and Howard Shore's accompanying music. Michael Douglas plays his standard asshole character better than anyone.

This is probably the happiest film Fincher will ever make. That's one reason I like the guy. (7/10)