20 August 2006

Fincher (1999-2002)

1999 - Fight Club - This frivolous, consumerist culture cracks a man's brain in two, creating an anarcho-primitivist-philosopher-sex-god. It had to happen sometime.

Unlike The Game, knowing the twist doesn't impact subsequent viewings of the film. In fact, it's fun to see how hard the film tries not to hide it. It's also amusing to imagine how insane Jack must seem, knowing the Tyler is just pretend. Unlike The Game, knowing the twist ahead of time is necessary to truly understand what's going on. With this knowledge, Jack and Tyler's real motivations can be seen.

"In the world I see, you're stalking elk through the damp canyon forest around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty carpool lane of some abandoned superhighway."
By the end of the film, Tyler is well on his way to accomplishing this goal by destroying a dozen credit card company buildings (and the debt records within). At the same time, it's also one hell of a bouquet to offer Marla. Marla is repeatedly seen stealing in order to survive. At one point, she explicitly states that she's in poverty. Pushing the reset button on the US economy is one way of helping her out with that issue. The entire film can be seen this way: Tyler pushes Jack into a philosophically rebirth and, at the same time, gives him a needed connection with the female of the species to balance that rebirth out.

What is interesting is that Tyler's anarchist goals required a pseudo-fascist cult to bring them about. This is a more realistic view of human nature, I suppose. Anarchy won't spontaneously happen the way Tyler wants it to without a little authoritarian push away from the tentacles of modern life.

Sorry, Roger Ebert, but I really liked this "macho porn." (9/10)

2002 - Panic Room - It's hard to find fault with technical aspects of this film. Beginning with the expositional real estate tour, the geography of the house is well-communicated to the audience. Using appropriately unnoticeable CGI, the camera is free to float all over and through the house, never letting us lose the positions of the players inside. Howard Shore's score is grim and fitting. The cinematography moves effortlessly from the warm, autumnal Central Park to the cold, concrete panic room. Child actors are always a gamble, but Fincher's last-minute choice of Kristen Stewart worked out very well. The story is a rollercoaster of tense moments that pushes the right buttons, as you would expect.

Despite all of its merits, I don't see myself revisiting this film very often. I could watch Alien³, Se7en and Fight Club once a week, but I last saw Panic Room nearly three years ago and wasn't particularly looking forward to the re-watch. I can see two reasons why I feel this way.

Unlike Fincher's 1995 and 1999 efforts, there's not a lot of depth in Panic Room. People commit crimes for different reasons; some are psycho. Mothers will do anything to protect their children. Fathers, too. The safety and sanctity of your home can easily be violated. Beyond the basics, I don't see anything else in here. It's a straight-forward thriller about a straight-forward fear. Once you know all of the forks in the road to the conclusion, there isn't much to think about.

I also realized, watching this last night, that I have a hard time identifying with the female protagonists. I found myself more caught up in the problems the male burglars faced trying to accomplish their task than I was with the mother and daughter's plight. I'll be interested in watching this film again once I have children. I suspect that might make Jodie Foster's character easier to identify with. (7/10)