Sunday, April 01, 2007

1999: A Great Year for Movies >> I am Jack's Manifesto

Well, what further can be said about Fight Club? As of this writing there are 8 films in the IMDb top 250 from 1999. The Green Mile? Okay, it's not all good news, but still. What a year. Something about the impending Millennial hysteria, perhaps. As cinema history is written, I think Fight Club will be the one director David Fincher's best remembered for. Well, that and the video for Express Yourself. There are some slight touches of Seven in here, specifically with the police procedurals behind the explosion of the Narrator's apartment, and the gruesomeness of the burned-out car in the warehouse. And yet, it only got nominated for a Sound Effects Editing Oscar. That year The Matrix sweeped all the technical awards it was nominated for. Oh well.

LATEST SIGHTING: I was up late last night waiting for Fletch and Fletch 2 to come on Spike TV, as my cable grid said they would. I don't know exactly why, it seemed like something I wanted to tape at the time, the whole 80s flashback thing. But instead, Fight Club came on! I was disappointed. But only briefly. Kind of interesting, how little gets bleeped out these days, even on Spike TV.

As a technical achievement the film is first-rate, and in terms of sheer editing I don't think it's been topped yet, at least in terms of a film based on a novel. Another example of an adaptation with rather fast-paced editing is The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which fits the subject matter. Films have gotten much flashier since, of course, especially the comic book ones. But Fight Club is far from a single-serving film; you'll need to see it a couple times to get everything, or most of everything. Mr. Fincher is inordinately fond of wedging the camera into small spaces. There are at least three Pixar-esque sequences, where the camera comes out of a garbage can, the camera spins around a stove's burner, and the camera pulls back on a refrigerator while having an extreme close-up of the floor. And for me, the opening credit sequence is now on my short list of great Opening Credit sequences (in progress! :) ). In the film's obsession with breaking the fourth wall in as many ways as possible, there is even a nod to film projectionists, and the reel change-over marks (cigarette burns). You'll sometimes see them at the end of Warner Bros. cartoons, or on films that haven't gotten a full digital upgrade. One time on TV they showed Mystery Train and the video transfer of it still had the cigarette burns. For shame, JVC! (Incidentally, if you do edit a couple frames of film into another film, the sound wouldn't be in sync because the sound plays a couple seconds ahead of the picture being shown at the time. A minor point, really. But how does a film like Fight Club have time for minor points?)

As for the actual story content, ultimately for me it gets too ridiculous to take too seriously. Of the other critics, I like Roger Ebert's take on the proceedings: that the film replaces sex with fist fights. Fortunately for us it's just an evolutionary step in our evolving as a species that we feel pain, and that pain is bad. Otherwise Fight Clubs probably would take off as they do here in the film. Even less likely is the evolution of Fight Club into Project Mayhem; at least, among the people I know. The first act of the film, though, does smack of a good adaptation, as the Narrator falls into group therapy meta-addiction much like something that would happen on a good Simpsons episode in its first act. Sprinkled throughout the movie are little bite-sized jewels of knowledge and/or philosophy, some involving soap, as seems to be the trend in movies these days. It's a bit like David Mamet, particularly Glengarry Glen Ross, and Tyler Durden is a little like Ricky Roma's sales approach. I don't think Mamet could've adapted this one as well, but that's just me. Maybe he could've. He's graduated to bigger things now, anyhow.

It's a good cast assembled here, too. Whatever happened to all these people? Brad Pitt seems to spend quite a few speeches rallying against the very fame machine that helped him out; wonder if he improvised all that. Helena Bonham Carter finally sheds her Merchant / Ivory career behind here, and provides the tender love story of the film. One of my favorite Ed Norton lines is "...No matter what happens, got that sofa problem worked out." (That scene: a nod to My Dinner with André, dontcha think?) For me, though, Meat Loaf is the secret heart of the film. Maybe because he's just trying to get by like everyone else, and just full of selfless affection and not spewing so much dogma. He is indeed the warm center of the universe that everyone crowds around! There's too many quotable lines here to end a film review on, but seeing it again I was struck by the following detail: the idea of the film is first bourne when Edward Norton asks Brad Pitt if he can stay with him, after his apartment is blown up. Rather, Brad forces the question on Ed, but I digress. Brad agrees, then immediately asks Ed to hit him. Is being roommates really that painful of a prospect?


so sayeth the Movie Review Hooligan

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