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The Films Of David Fincher: A Retrospective

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist October 1, 2010 at 7:02AM

In general, when we pen a retrospective on a director's oeuvre , we try and save them for when a filmmaker is deep into his career and has a least 15-plus films under his belt. But we're making an exception here for David Fincher, who is obviously considered to be one of the most estimable modern auteurs working today, in the league of Christopher Nolan, if not higher and generally seems to be destined to have a career that will be looked back on with great admiration and panegyrics if it isn't already.

Fight Club” (1999)
"Overrated"? Adored by the most mongoloid of male filmgoers. Goes off the rails in the third act; throw whatever censure you want at "Fight Club," — and you might not be wrong — but David Fincher is nowhere more at home (aside from maybe "Se7vn") than he is with the devilish, mischievous comedy and psychosocial disturbed mien of his 1999 paean to
nihilism, shit-disturbing destruction and male emasculation. Adapted from (and deeply expanded upon) Chuck Palahniuk's novel, in its superficial bare bones form, "Fight Club" is about an everyman (Edward Norton) so despairing and paralyzed with his mundane life that he develops an acute from of insomnia that leads him to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt); an uber-charming and Machiavellian soap-maker and a prophet of chaos who proselytizes the ultimate form of salvation — perhaps reincarnation — in the form of basement, bare-knuckle fighting. But Fincher's violent and deeply acidic picture uses this premise as a launching pad to explore American male masculinity, identity, and the sickening homogenization of culture; the central problem of this protagonist might just be the societal ennui-like disease that's rotting us all from the inside as we act like spectators and tourists in our own lives. "Fight Club" is ultimately the grandest (and fascistic) carpe diem, a brutal and yet often hilarious, self-created wake-the-fuck-up call birthed from one of the most ambitious self-delusions ever demonstrated from an unreliable narrator. [A-]

Alien 3” (1993)
There’s a reason that the documentary about the making of “Alien 3” on the forthcoming Blu-ray box set is called “Rape and Wreckage;” this wasn’t what you would call a smooth shoot. Originally conceived as a film about monks living in a wooden planet, it became, under the creative guidance of Fincher (as his first feature film), about a prison colony of murderers, thieves, and rapists who take in the marooned Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, sans hair) and help her fight the drippy alien beast from the previous films. Well, not exactly like the previous films. This beastie was born from a dog, so it was slicker and sleeker and moved around the tight corridors like a rocket, which is a good metaphor for the young director that oversaw the project. Working from a compromised conception, not to mention an ill-negotiated premise (the film’s misleading teaser, riffing on the famous tagline of the original film, promised that “On earth, everyone can hear you scream”) and an impossible release date, and the results are a fascinating muddle: every actor, their head closely scalped, looks exactly-the-fucking-same; intriguing subplots (like a prison worshipping the alien as a dragon) were sheared away; and Fincher’s unerring cynicism turned a summer escapist romp into a tortured examination of the nature of death. His keen eye was already present (the drippy facility, the bar-codes on the back of the prisoners’ necks), but his sense of story still needed sharpening. If Fincher's reputation for control precedes him, all one needs to do is look back on the disastrous results of this film — and the experience which he described as his worst — to understand why. [C] 
— Kevin Jagernauth, Oliver Lyttelton, Drew Taylor, Danielle Johnsen

This article is related to: David Fincher, Retrospective, Features, Feature

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