Dissecting the Classics: Fight Club

Merrick Morton (20th Century Fox)

Aaron Hubbard
February 1, 2019
411Mania

Who’s ready to break the first two rules?

Welcome to Dissecting the Classics . In this column, I analyze films that are almost universally loved and considered to be great. Why? Because great movies don’t just happen by accident. They connect with initial audiences and they endure for a reason. This column is designed to keep meaningful conversation about these films alive.

What Do We All Know?

Fight Club is perhaps the most enduringly popular work of director David Fincher. While it received mixed reviews from contemporary critics and a modest box office performance, the film found its true audience on DVD, becoming a cult film in the early 2000s. It has since been reevaluated as one of the best films of the 1990s, with Empire Magazine going so far as to call it one of the ten best films of all time in 2008. But the film also has its fair share of detractors: many take issue with the glorification of violence and social terrorism, fearing the impact it would have on male viewers. Those fears aren’t totally unfounded: several fight clubs were started in the early 2000s, and an attempted bombing of a Starbucks in 2009 was attributed to trying to recreate Project Mayhem.

If you haven’t seen Fight Club and are reading this for some reason, this review is going to be very spoiler heavy, and I recommend seeing the film first. That’s partially because it has a brilliantly executed twist that I’d hate spoiling. But primarily it’s because Fincher and his team excel at crafting complex themes that require a deep dive and it’s better if you’ve scratched the surface by yourself. With that out of the way, let’s talk about Fight Club.

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Fincherphilia & Beyond

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Just a small sample of all the precious filmic resources bestowed by Cinephilia & Beyond:

1993. Alien3 01

Alien3: “Take all of the responsibility, because you’re going to get all of the blame”

1995. Se7en

Se7en: A Rain-Drenched, Somber, Gut-Wrenching Thriller that Restored David Fincher’s Faith in Filmmaking

1995. The Game

Downwards Is the Only Way Forwards: Welcome to David Fincher’s The Game

1999. Fight Club

Fight Club: David Fincher’s Stylish Exploration of Modern-Day Man’s Estrangement and Disillusionment

2007. Zodiac

Fincher’s Zodiac As Easily One Of The Best Thrillers Of The Millennium So Far

1982. David Fincher at ILM

David Fincher’s Favorite Movies

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The Difficult History of David Fincher’s Fight Club

Merrick Morton

David Fincher’s Fight Club is now considered a classic, but it had trouble getting off the ground.

Ryan Lambie
October 15, 2018
Den of Geek! (US)

What the hell is Fight Club anyway? A horror film about a Jekyll-and-Hyde office worker who becomes a terrorist? A drama about late 20th century masculinity in crisis? A warped romance about a man trying to change himself into someone as interesting as the woman he loves? A thriller about a decadent generation goading itself into extremism?

Executives at 20th Century Fox certainly struggled with Fight Club. Unsure how to market a film in which young men beat one another to a pulp and stole bags of fat from the bins of liposuction clinics, the studio placed ads for it during World Wrestling Federation matches. Meanwhile, Fight Club‘s posters, dreamed up by an expensive design firm, featured a pink bar of soap with the title incised into its waxy surface. It certainly looked unlike anything else stuck up outside a movie theater in 1999, even if most people walking past wouldn’t have had a clue as to what it meant – the soap being a wry reference to a key scene in the film.

The bewildering split between TV ads during wrestling matches, which emphasized the film’s bruising bare-knuckle scenes, and the artistic posters with their pink bars of soap, were an indication, perhaps, of Fight Club‘s slippery quality. How do you get people to go and see a film like this, Brad Pitt or no Brad Pitt?

In retrospect, it’s little surprise that some of Fox’s higher-ups didn’t like Fight Club – least of all one Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul whose News Corporation had acquired Fox in 1985. Here, after all, was a film which openly attacked corporations, advertisers and the entire capitalist system.

One of Fight Club‘s producers, Art Linson, recalled the first screening of the film for Fox’s executives; they were, he said, “flopping around like acid-crazed carp wondering how such a thing could even have happened.”

There was one executive who did believe in Fight Club: Fox’s studio head Bill Mechanic. In the mid-90s, Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club novel was doing the rounds at Fox before it had even been published, and was originally envisioned as a low-budget movie to be made through the studio’s Fox 2000 division, which specialized in independent film. Along with production executives Laura Ziskin and Kevin McCormick, Mechanic was an enthusiastic champion of Fight Club‘s spiky humor and unpredictable plot.

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The Dust Brothers’ E.Z. Mike on Fight Club and Performing His Score Live

2005-05. The Dust Brothers
The Dust Brothers: John King (left) and Mike Simpson. By Mr. Bonzai / SOS (2005)

Michael Cooper
May 17, 2018
L.A. Weekly

The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB! – Tyler Durden

We are going to talk about Fight Club _ the score, that is. Since the film was first released in theaters almost 20 years ago, it has managed to stay afloat in the pop culture atmosphere thanks to a strong cult following. The subject matter and performances were and still are a big part of the movie’s appeal, but the film’s standout score, created by legendary writer-producer duo The Dust Brothers, has a lot to do with it, too. This Saturday night, for the first time ever, both Brothers (who aren’t actually related) will present the score live at the Wiltern.

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The Dust Brothers

Sampling, Remixing & The Boat Studio

Paul Tingen
May 2005
SOS (Sound on Sound)

How David Fincher Uses Pop Music

The Discarded Image (Julian Palmer)
Published on 14 Nov 2017
YouTube

In this video essay I breakdown how David Fincher uses popular music in films like Fight Club, The Social Network and the new Netflix series Mindhunter.