Director Talk: David Fincher
Ian: We are back with Director Talk. And by we I mean the three greatest, and most humble, movie bloggers of all-time! Oh wait, actually its just myself, PG Cooper, and Fogs. Today we take a look at the work of acclaimed director David Fincher, who came onto the scene in the early nineties and has built himself up over the last two decades into one of the premier directors in Hollywood. So guys, let me ask you this; when you think of Fincher, what film image pops into your head right away?
Cooper: “DETECTIIIIVVVVEEEE!!!! You’re looking for me.”
Fogs: That’s a good one PG.
It’s not my favorite scene or anything, but when you say what image, it would probably have to be from “Se7en” as well. Probably the van approaching in the distance at the end kicking up the dirt trail. That or the air freshener room, LOL.
Ian: The first thing I think of is… dim lighting. But certainly not in a bad way. Fincher is an expert at embracing the dark qualities in his films.
Fogs: LOL. I like how you phrased that. Extending it beyond the visuals… Because certainly, in tone, his films are dark.
Ian: I agree. And yet they are never dark in a depressing for dank way. They are always stylistic and expressive. Seven was a very early example of this, but his latest, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was another excellent examples.
Heck, I even like what he did with Alien 3, though I know I’m in the minority there.
Cooper: I still haven’t seen Alien 3. For the record, I haven’t seen The Game or Panic Room either.
Fogs: Confession time, huh? Know which one I haven’t seen? Benjamin Button. LOL.
Just looked silly… I know, I should get on that now that I have to live up to a higher expectation of film knowledge, but…
I can comment on Alien 3. I just watched it recently for a Lambcast as a matter of fact. You can definitely feel that Fincher directed it… it’s got that creepy dark Fincher feel to it. But it went through massive production difficulties. I heard he’s “disowned it”. I’ve also heard that the “Assembly Cut” is a far better film. But given the theatrical release I don’t know how good a film it could be turned into. It isn’t horrible, don’t get me wrong, I’m just not a huge fan.
I DO like “The Game” quite a bit though. Fun and exciting. Especially the first time through when you don’t know all the twists and turns!
Cooper: Benjamin Button is a good movie, but not a great one. Bit too long.
Ian: I also have to admit to not seeing Button. I just… didn’t get to it I guess.
Fogs, I would like to touch on your point on the Alien 3 directors cut. This is probably something we should have went into when we did our Ridley Scott talk, here here’s my question: how much legitimacy should director’s cuts of films have?
Cooper: I think they’re just as worthy as the theatrical cuts. As for which cut is the “real” cut? Whichever cut works best for you.
Fogs: Well, first off, I think it depends on who does ‘em!
You mention Ridley Scott, and notably, he didnt even do the Blade Runner’s “Directors Cut” – just sent some notes and signed off on it, LOL! “The Final Cut” was his, though.
Here, Fincher didn’t recut the film. Thus it’s the “Assembly Cut” and not the “Director’s Cut”… so I think that needs to be noted at the very least for those who want to treat it as the definitive version. Not that the theatrical cut was completely Fincher’s vision either, obviously if he disowned it, there was some studio interference going on.
So my two rules that are developing on this subject seem to be 1) It needs the legitimacy of the original creators 2) It needs to actually BE superior to the original. Thus, the Star Wars special editions are abhorrent to me now, while I have no hesitation calling “The Final Cut” the definitive Blade Runner.
Interested in your thoughts though. What do you guys think?
Cooper: I just go with whatever version I like best.
Ian: The whole idea bothers me. Movies are works of art. Once they’re finished, they should be finished. I don’t like the idea of constantly changing them. Perhaps this is because I’ve become jaded since I’m such a big Star Wars fan and I’m disgusted with what happened there.
I’m sorry, but the definitive movie is the theatrical version. Anyways, I suppose I did get us off track. I suppose Fincher himself isn’t actually guilty of d-cuts, not like Scott and Lucas.
Let me ask you this, with all of the directors working right now, at this point in each of their careers, where does Fincher stand?
Fogs: That’s a good point, and I should work it in as 3) to my Directors Cuts rules… 3) Always make the Theatrical version readily available as well. That’s my biggest gripe with The Star Wars hack jobs.
As to Fincher, he’s right near the top, for me! I mean, I haven’t exactly ranked my favorite directors but I cant think of too many bigger names I’d be more excited to see a new movie from right now. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a tape measure home run as far as I’m concerned, and he has two great films in Fight Club and Se7en, plus a really really underrated one in Zodiac. I liked the Social Network a lot, too, I’m just not a HUGE fan of it or anything like I was of say, Fight Club.
But yeah, he’s A list, to me. No doubt. No doubt at all.
Cooper: As in, where does Fincher stand when compared to other directors working today?
Cooper: One of the best directors working today. He always makes quality films no matter what. Even when he’s doing more conventional films like Panic Room (which I watched for the first time this morning) he still brings a high level of craftsmanship to the proceedings. Fincher is someone all directors working should emulate.
Fogs: LOL. That’s what you call raising the bar, folks. Dan’s goin’ the extra mile!
Ian: Well, I agree with him. He is definitely one of the best out there right now. In fact, I think he’s still hitting his peak. After twenty years doing features films, he has a certain maturity to his films. He also has a great eye for visual style and cinematography. He started this early with Seven, but to be honest, I having been enjoying his latest work more than his older stuff, with The Social Network as probably his best film.
In fact, if I had to rank my top 3 Fincher films they would be:
1. The Social Network
2. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Fogs: This is a tough one. GWTDT is still new, you know? It could potentially leapfrog Se7en on a rewatch or two. I cant see it passing Fight Club for me though, that’s a top 20 film for me.
1 Fight Club
3 Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Cooper:If we’re ranking now does that mean this one is done? I hope not. Anyway, I know we’re just suppose to do top three, but he doesn’t have that many films, I figure I’d just rank them all (that I’ve seen):1. Fight Club
3. The Social Network
4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
6. Panic Room
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ian: Okay… looks like we’re going to have to get into Fight Club. And once again, its Ian vs. the world…
I liked Fight Club. I think its a strong movie, an interesting movie, but its also highly overrated. In fact, I consider it one of the most overrated films there is. Seven was a much stronger film; it was tighter, the twist was more relevant to the whole plot, and it wasn’t as gimmicky.
Cooper: First Blade Runner, now Fight Club?!? Ian, I don’t think you have a soul In all seriousness, I see where you’re coming from, and I flop between Se7en and Fight Club has far as favourite Fincher film all the time. But honestly, I love everything about Fight Club from beginning to end. The story is engaging, the acting is awesome, the dialogue sharp, the themes interesting, and the filmmaking excellent. It delivers on everything I want from a film.
Ian: Remember now, I did say I like Fight Club. I just think its overhyped. Lets face it, it really does start to unravel by the end. The twist is good, but the context in which its presented is pretty bad. The ending with the banks and what have you seemed very disconnected from the rest of the film.I just think his later stuff is stronger. Social Network was brilliant. It was about so many things at the same time; the youth revolution in business technology, the betrayal of friendships, the character study of a jerk who doesn’t think he’s a jerk, all built within his real yet distinctive world Fincher made for the characters to exist in.
Dragon tattoo is still pretty new, but having seen the original film and read the novel, it really was a testament to what a great director can do to inject life into retreaded material.
And Zodiac, which I would actually still put a notch below Fight Club, was really strong in the feel and tone it created, showing the growing maturity of Fincher as a filmmaker.
Cooper: Those are excellent points. I love the way the twist is presented. I think it’s brilliant. I also love how the film doesn’t rely on it’s twist. It’s not like the twist happens and the movie’s over, it keeps going for another twenty minutes or so. To each his own, but personally, I think Fight Clubis excellent for reasons stated earlier.His later works are great too though, like you said. Everything you said about The Social Network is bang on, and the film also proved Fincher can do films about more “normal” subject matter. And yeah, Dragon Tattoo is definitely a testament to the truth of the auteur theory. And I’m glad you brought up how atmospheric Zodiac is. It’s probably that film’s biggest strength.
It’s hard to talk favourite Fincher films though. I’ve loved the majority of his films.
Fogs: I have a feeling that I’m going to wind up doing one of these rants like every other time we roll one of these.
“Fight Club” needed the end it had. It isn’t just a story with a twist, something to be seen on the surface level only.
It’s a movie that speaks to the modern man, and how he’s in conflict with his nature as an animal. We’ve suffered a loss of masculinity. We fight a constant war of suppression for the sake of society. The destruction of the “Credit Record” at the end was less about the story concluding victory of project mayhem blowing up some buildings, and more about symbolizing that man can only reconcile with himself and find peace if we finally reject the purchased-with-plastic placebos that we’re presently provided.
For real. Linking my own piece feels a little tacky here, but I did MTESS this one, and I really ranted about the meanings here in this movie. I had a very… angry voice in it. LOL
Cooper: We should probably get off the topic of Fight Club before Fogs hurts us
Fogs: This post is seriously violating the first two rules of Fight Club anyways, so yes. Probably best to move along.
Meanwhile, I have no problem with all the love “The Social Network” gets, its great… If you want to have it #1, I have no issue, its a totally worthy flick.
Zodiac though is criminally underrated. Great movie. Gut wrenching. Just a drag you over the coals type flick. Awesome performances from everyone involved.
Cooper: I wouldn’t call Zodiac under rated. Critics loved it, and most audiences did too. The film was definitely snubbed by the Academy though.
Fogs: Under SEEN, then? I feel like I’m the only person I know that’s seen it (excluding people I know online).
Ian: Yeah, it definitely wasn’t seen by a whole lot of people. And since the blu-ray was mysteriously discontinued, it may stay that way for a while. Shame.
Alright, I’m going to ask the question I always like to ask during these talks. What would you consider Fincher’s signature film?
Cooper: I’m gonna say Se7en. The film was a big box office sucess, and is generally considered a modern classic. It’s heavy in atmosphere and visuals, has a sick and twisted subject matter, and also features Brad Pitt, who Fincher likes to use. Not to mention the film’s got some pretty iconic scenes like, “What’s in the box?!?”. So yeah, I’d say Se7en captures Fincher the best, and also resonates the most with the public. Though Fight Club would be a close runner-up.
Ian: Yeah, I agree with Seven. He really managed to establish a unique tone for himself. it seems to be the basis for all of his films since then. If someone who has never watched a Fincher movie asked me which one of his to watch to get a good sense of what he’s all about, I would tell them to watch Seven.
Ian: Alright, so lets wrap it up with this question: What do you expect from him in the future? For myself, I’m hoping he wins an Oscar soon. He came close with Button and Social Network. I haven’t heard word on whether or not he’s going to finish the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, but that would be pretty cool if he did.
Fogs: Yeah, that’s a bit unfortunate. I heard that the second and third GWTDT movies were getting their budgets cut. Originally I think he had planned on helming them all, but that might throw a wrench into the works. Either he may have to be replaced by a less expensive director, or he might chaffe at the prospect of doing them with less funding. Either way, he might not continue on… not that Ive heard one way or the other.
Even if he doesn’t though, I’m sure he’ll continue to create atmospheric, deep moves that also enjoyable stories. He’s a really great director. An Oscar in his future wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Cooper: I really want him to finish the Millennium trilogy. That, to me, is priority. As for winning an Oscar, he certainly deserves it. Regardless of if he wins or not though, he’s still one of the best directors out there, and a personal favourite of mine. I just hope he keeps picking films that interest him and that he continues to give them his all.
Ian: Well, that wraps up another Director Talk, and I think its fair to say we have al declared ourselves fans of Fincher. Are you? Feel free to comment on anything said here.