Zodiac ★★★★★

zodiac is the film people think memories of murder is.

anyway, it being fincher’s bday (ie today 8-28-01) and all, i now have an excuse to transfer my old blog post on zodiac to LB.  the original blog post was march 4, 2007, but for the purposes of LB, i will date it march 3, 2007 on the LB diary timeline, as that is the actual date i first saw zodiac.

also, at the end of this post is a comment about photographs of ticket stubs - i’d repost them here if i could, but obviously can’t.  but i’m leaving it on this post for posterity’s sake.

these old posts are interesting to look back at years later.  i wouldn’t say i’m a better writer now, but rather, i’m just not as bad as i used to be.

from my old blog (march 4, 2007):

 yes, fincher is now right up there with wkw, kubrick, coppola (ff, not sofia), woody, shunji iwai, hartley, and malick (as far as film directors who i dig)

i remember the first time i heard of a fincher film, that being se7en, and my teacher in high school saying that it was basically a film noir except in color (he went on to say true film noirs are in black and white). when i eventually saw it i was blown away by the excitement of the film. now as a somewhat more mature film fan, i can appreciate it on different levels, particularly the direction of the film, which i had considered to be fincher's best directorial effort.

however, se7en wasnt the first fincher film i had seen. i actually had seen alien3 earlier. which brings me to a tangent (this whole post is actually tangent). alien3 is often cited as pretty bad film, but when i saw it (and as young as i am now, i was much younger then) i thought it was awesome. i actually consider it better than the game (which i was bored completely with) and panic room (which is average). but even though i had seen se7en and alien3, films which i had really thought were awesome, i didnt make the connection that they were by the same guy, because i was just a casual movie fan at that time. but as my appreciation of se7en grew, i began to wait for fincher's next film, fight club. and this time my expectations were high.

i saw fight club opening night in columbia. and for the most part, i loved it. but i didnt know it would be that kind of film, i thought it would be more along the lines of just a bunch of working class guys setting up a club to blow off steam after a hard day's night (i had never seen a trailer, so at that point, i figured that was what it was going to be). the twist in the film threw me off, and initally i didnt like it. i was so thrown off by it, that it actually ruined the experience for me, because i felt cheated by it, deceived. and everyone kept telling me that was the most important thing from the film. i didnt even think it was original, surely someone had done that before in comic books, if not novels or other films. but it was friend of mine who told me that, since i now know what to expect from the film, i could go back enjoy it as being part of the film, as opposed to having it stick out. and subsequent viewings of the film had led me to eventually consider it fincher's best over all film.

at some point he also helps bring those bmw films out (im not sure exactly where in the timeline that is, but who cares, this isnt a history lesson. the point is, im glad he did this, if for nothing else wkw's contribution to the project, which i actually like more than some of wkw's full length features (at this point, anyway)). definitely i was dissappointed that fincher didnt make a film for the project. and then he makes panic room which was average.

so its a bit of a let down with panic room, and you just hope that you havent seen his best yet, or at least make a film worthy of the guy who made se7en and fight club. so, the fact that he was following up panic room with another film about a serial killer left me apprehensive; it seemed as though he was giving up and just going back to something he knew he was good at. and dont get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with sticking with what you are good at. i mean, how many samurai dramas did kurosawa did? at least fincher was doing something, i thought.

and thus brings me to zodiac. as i previously said, i had (key word) felt that se7en was his best directorial effort, while fight club being his best over all film. but after seeing zodiac yesterday, i now feel that zodiac is his both his best directorial effort and his best overall film. the pacing is virtually perfect (there is one point early on, and very briefly, that i felt the editing and pacing was off, too rushed, but that was literally perhaps a one minute flaw in an otherwise nearly perfect film); even at 2 hours and 40 minutes, it doesnt feel like a torturous 60 minute eternity like a tarkovsky film. i enjoyed it so much that i wished this film was longer. i rarely go to the theater, but it's films like these that are the reason that i do. ive seen films by some of my favorite directors at the theater before (woody, as well as kubrick, when eyes wide shut opened in st. louis), but this was the first time at a theater that i was blown away by my first viewing of a film. in fact, about two thirds of the way into the film i realized i was watching a masterpiece, and i dont think that's ever happened. i may eventually reflect upon a film afterwards and consider it a masterpiece, but this was the first time ive had such a realization while i was actually watching the film at the theater.

fincher isnt as flasy here as has been in the past. and thats great because to add the spectacular flash we've been accustomed to would have probably ruined this. there are moments of that flash, dont get me wrong, but they fit. they dont stick out. they complement the film and are absolutely necessary (ie the formation of that building). he builds tension perfectly (ie, not everyone in california has a basement), and the film ends perfectly.

some things i didnt like: i do agree with those who consider downey's portrayal as a little over the top, and gyllenhaal's acting is at times a caricature of an eagle scout, instead of a portrayal. in fact, every time gyllenhaal has a joke made at him, i almost felt like it didnt fit with the rest of the tone of the film. but who knows, maybe downey and gyllenhaal's respective performances were accurate portrayals of the actual people. those critiques aside, the performances of the rest of the cast are great (i didnt know anthony edwards and chloe sevigny would be here, special surprises, and donal logue was completely unrecognizable-who know he could play something straight?), with a special mention going to ruffalo. he was born to play that character and it shows. where as you could see that, at times, downey jr and gyllenhaal were acting, ruffallo was that character. you cant ask for anything more

gyllenhaal's portrayal of an obsessed person was a bit different than what you usually see. typically its in the sense of that crazy guy from aguirre, but here, the obsession depicted is sort of like the nerdy fan who collects all of the imports of his favorite band, not just the local releases. that kind of portrayal was actually refreshing.

the wardrobes seemed authentic (sometimes too authentic - did people really dress like ruffalo, with the tight shirts and all?); it didnt feel like a costume drama so much as an actual recreation of a period. and i read somewhere that even the vending machines change appropriately with the passage of time in this film. talk about attention to detail. we've already read how fincher has gone into kubrick territory with as many as 70 takes for one scene, much to the dismay of his cast. ive said that, wrong or right, directors can be jerks. this is a case where the alleged jerk (ie fincher) is right: the means definitely justifies the end.

prior to watching this, i had noted several times that there were films i had forgotten to add in my previous list of ongoing great films of the 2000s. well, here's another film to throw in there. if i were to re-do that list, it would 1) ITMFL 2) dancer in the dark 3) zodiac. maybe zodiac needs to be number 2. at some point, i'll need to re-watch dancer. zodiac is high on that list because i dont know if i'll see a better film released this year. but who knows, its only march.

it took me about an hour to find it, but i eventually found the ticket stub from fight club, way back in '99 when i saw it during opening night in columbia. i'll try to post a picture of it with my current zodiac ticket stub. yes, im that nerdy obssessed fan of fincher maybe. i dont care, i think its kind of neat that i still have it. if you look closely (the ink on the stub has faded through the years), it says "fight" for fight club, and shows the day of the show "10/15"; the other half of the stub was presumably taken by the ticket taker that night. fast forward to the ticket stub for zodiac, all hi-tech and what not.

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