Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Person of the Week VII

A Fincher File

      Like any impassioned film lover, last night's airing of the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards marked a splendid opportunity to gleefully (no pun intended) remember the year that was for film. Witnessing Al Pacino take the stage and accept his award for Best Actor (in a TV or Miniseries) for his performance in You Don't Know Jack was a memorably giddy experience.  The Robert De Niro career montage that gracefully filled our TV screens was unmistakably, a triumph of cinematic history, casting the glitzy spotlight on the exceedingly well-deserved Rushmore of actors—awarding him the Cecile B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. 
      But in terms of my "Person of the Week" segment, the most noteworthy development of the night concerned The Social Network—it won an impressive four awards including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Most importantly and unsurprisingly, David Fincher won the Best Director award. Since filmmaking is a profession best understood through the eyes of a director, David Fincher fittingly also wins my Person of the Week honor.
      The Best Director victory solidifies Fincher's maturing legacy in Hollywood, as an ingenious master of the camera. After winning the award, Fincher called his cast the "dream team," and thanked them for their hard work. He also joked that he's "loathe to acknowledge the kind of wonderful response that this film has received for fear of becoming addicted to it." Any man that possesses such striking modesty is worthy of abundant praise....if only my blog was more popular.  As it is, my sophisticated followers and I can rejoice in unison, as we collectively reaffirm Fincher's directorial brilliance—and eagerly anticipate his next film project. 
      At an early formative age, David Fincher would offer the film world a glimpse into his uncanny and almost radically distinct visual style. He would eschew the conventional film school route.  Instead, Fincher would tirelessly hone his craft from experiments with his 8mm camera.  While employed with the famed Industrial Light & Magic, he would assist with hands-on productions, such as Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—a uniquely fruitful opportunity for the nascent filmmaker. Fincher would go on to experience a storied career directing commercials and music videos for his own Production Company, fittingly titled Propaganda Films.  Ultimately, the medium that would allow the world to witness his extraordinary talent was film.  
     Fincher's career behind the camera got off to an inauspicious start.  His first feature film, Alien 3, was almost uniformly denounced by critics. He attributes this early failure to a contemptuous atmosphere that was marred by constant disputes with 20th Century Fox over script and budget issues. Thankfully, Fincher is an ambitious and assiduous filmmaker. He would not allow this bleak atmosphere to persist. 
      The David Fincher that we have grown ceremoniously acquainted with over the years would emphatically announce his  presence with the critical and commercial hit, Seven.  The film gave us a glimpse of the future.  Fight Club would become Fincher's most polarizing film.  Aside from distinguishing itself as a highly esteemed cult classic (most of my friends consider it one of their favorite films of all-time), Fight Club would cement the budding director's place among Hollywood's class of stylistically distinct visionaries. 
      Fincher is a custodian of ideas. His breadth of exploration extends to such a dizzying array of compositions.  He can rhythmically piece together a mosaic of antithetically clashing ideas or purposely render a story bound by opposition. Visually, Fincher's nose for aesthetic revelation is wondrously unique.  The art of watching a Fincher film is akin to witnessing a Leonardo da Vinci painting or a Shakespearean tragedy narratively unfold before your eyes. 
      His crowning jewel of directing is The Social Network (my number one film of 2010). I will restrain from waxing poetic about the genius of this film. Rather, I will merely underscore the fact that The Social Network assertively cements Fincher's standing in Hollywood, and in so doing, secures his placement among the pantheon of modern auteur's. A future historian will undoubtedly examine his remarkable career and coin a colorfully succinct term to define his legacy. I will attempt to offer up my own two cents and coin the term, fincher-sting—a comical way of articulating the widely held belief that any Fincher film is synonymous with dazzling intrigues. I implore you to look no further in his filmography than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to confirm this point; a fascinating film that stands as a fitting testament to Fincher's spectacularly compelling command of the camera.

*In the link below is a pretty informative and fascinating interview with David Fincher. He talks about his career and latest film, The Social Network:


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  2. ah, I'm quite the opposite when it comes to Fincher. I generally don't like directors like him and I'm scared of the influence and trends they brought to Hollywood. I never understood his obsession with pessimism, darkness, he always has a misanthropic look upon humans and his characters. As a psychologist, I must admit such artists scare me because they have a negative influence on people, and especially on young people who are mostly educated by media and films these days :(

  3. Fair observation. I also tend to get more enjoyment out of the Capraesque approach to storytelling. My appreciation of Fincher's work is mostly a result of his brilliant technical command of the camera. His stories often paint a bleak picture of humanity and that makes it difficult to empathize with them (or even root for them). But this approach is owed largely to the influences of the French New Wave, European Art Cinema and the New Hollywood (not so much classical Hollywood where directors focused on more redemptive, feel good stories).

    I did not know you were a psychologist and I'm impressed. Your take on the influence film can have on people is significant. I will not argue with you on that observation, but maybe I should devote a write up to the influence of films on people. It is such a fascinating topic, but I do not know how much raw empirical data I could compile.

    Thanks for the comment Dez!

  4. Fincher’s trademark isn’t a visual one, it’s his obsession with exploring a single person, be it a murderer or a website owner, and using that one person as the key to unlocking entire secret societies and showing us what’s inside. He will be remembered for being the man who took on mankind.

  5. @Jaccstev

    While Fincher certainly employs a "single person" narrative structure to unearth broader themes—i.e. the Nietzschean narrator/main character of Fight Club (Ed Norton), he explores this narrative quotient through a purposeful visual style. The lurid, dark visuals of Fight Club served as a parallel metaphor to the paralysis and despair of Norton's character. His films embody a definitive single character structure, but this structure is accentuated and substantiated by a uniquely robust visual style. Both aspects work in unison.