Fight Club cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth talks us through this iconic shot and many others in David Fincher‘s masterpiece. We also discuss how the relative naturalism of The Social Network was just as difficult to achieve, and whether something is lost with VFX even when it looks perfect.
Roger Durling’s wildly successful Santa Barbara International Film Festival is underway with tributes and with honors being handed out for the next week or so. Last night, Brad Pitt was honored with the Leonard Maltin Modern Master award.
After a lengthy interview with Maltin, which covered all of Pitt’s work with directors like both Ridley and Tony Scott, the Coen brothers, Tarantino, and beyond, Pitt’s frequent collaborator David Fincher made a rare appearance to hand Pitt his Modern Master award. They have made three films together, if you didn’t know (which of course would be insane to not know). Pitt is a muse of sorts for Fincher, starting with Se7en (1995), then Fight Club (1999), and finally Benjamin Button (2008). Pitt said when accepting his award that he hoped the two get to do five more collaborations together. Wouldn’t that be something?
Brad Pitt is having quite a season. It’s as though we’ve never seen a movie star. Movie stars of his stature are “as rare as albino pandas, and here’s one of them,” said Fincher. What that means is that it’s rare indeed for an actor to possess that thing — that movie star thing. Charisma that could power an entire planet. You can’t teach it. You can’t learn it. It’s there or it isn’t. And with Pitt, it was there from his first appearance onscreen.
Caustic, nihilistic and controversial, Fight Club successfully adapted Chuck Palahniuk’s transgressive fiction novel, it’s a credit to screenwriter Jim Uhl’s excellent adaptation that the voice of the original novel is heard so clearly, and at the same time the film proved to be an enormous success. Though much credit is also due to the excellent sound and editing: so much in this film depends on hitting exactly the right tone.
Based on a reader suggestion, I decided to take a look at the various home video versions of Fight Club that are available.
Filming Fight Club
Fight club was photographed by Jeff Cronenweth, a then hot and upcoming Cinematographer who until that point hadn’t shot a major feature, but did have the advantage of being Blade Runner cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth’s son. Fincher has worked with both father and son on a number of projects culminating in ‘Alien 3’. Subsequently Jeff did camera work on a number of Fincher’s other features including ‘Se7en’ and ‘The Game’.
The film was shot using the Super35 format, and framed at 2.35:1. Daylight scenes were shot on Kodak EXR 100T and Vision 250D film, while the majority of night scenes were shot on ‘faster’, grainier Vision 500T.
Selected night scenes from the film were 5% flashed at the laboratory, which boosts contrast and enhances detail in the darker parts of the frame. Additionally a handful of release prints were treated with the Technicolor’s ENR silver retention process (bleach bypass) at the 80 IR level.
Shooting in Super35 at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 provides considerable latitude for re-framing during the editing process, which David Fincher may have developed a taste for when working on the various home video editions of Se7en.
Movies have always had a strong impact on me, they affect the way I look at the world and help make me a better person. With this channel I want to explore this boundary between film analysis and life lessons, because I believe that movies, just like the stories of old, contain valuable lessons and insights, and to better understand them is to better understand life.
In this video essay on Fight Club, I examine how charismatic leaders like Tyler Durden turn men into Space Monkeys.
In 1989 Chuck Palahniuk participated in a controversial type of “personal development” seminar, known generically as a large group awareness training (LGAT) and, according to Palahniuk, this seminar inspired him to become a writer.
In the two decades since Fight Club was published and released, film reviewers, academics, journalists, and the public have largely agreed about Palahniuk’s commentary on consumerism and masculinity; however, just as Tyler Durden spliced single frames of pornography into family films, it will be argued that Chuck Palahniuk, and later David Fincher, spliced numerous references to the LGAT industry into Fight Club. It will be contended that, while Fight Club touches on multiple themes, a major metaphor relates to Palahniuk’s involvement with these organisations.
Because Palahniuk and Fincher refer to various individuals, processes, criticisms, and critics associated with LGATs, this analysis will start with an overview of the LGAT industry. Evidence of Palahniuk’s participation in the most well-known LGAT of its time will then be provided, and the remainder of the paper will discuss the parallels between this industry and the book/film.
John Hunter, author of this essay, was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder in 2003 and since then has been trying to understand the illness, and its impact on belief-formation. In 2017 John completed his PhD in psychology, contending that a brutal form of “personal development” training triggers a bipolar state (hypomania/mania), that this experience contributes to a kind of religious conversion… and that Chuck Palahniuk and David Fincher were satirising these trainings in Fight Club.
Where craft meets culture. Hosted by The Modern School of Film’s Robert Milazzo, Murmur is a prescient tour through our sight and sound culture; featuring scenes, songs, and an array of guest tour-guides from all sides of the brain:
Oh, F’it, let’s actually talk about the film Fight Club @ Twenty – still the smartest delinquent in the room – with the man whose book-as-rolling-ball-of-art-and-confusion began a movie birthed by an apropos society of full-throated artists: Chuck Palahniuk. The film still can’t drink, but it’s no less a danger to society. Its meta and mythos are more than meets the eye, and its fever-pitch lives in Chuck’s own agnostic baptisms. Write what you know, perhaps; film what’s to remain, please. Live from Cologne, Germany Live from Cologne, Germany, with an assist from Black Francis of The Pixies. Gleiten [Slide].
It’s been 20 years since David Fincher’s cult classic Fight Club first exploded onto screens. The film, based on Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel of the same name, repelled and excited audiences in equal measure when it was released, changing the optics of how political cinema could or should be – with the first worries of copycat rebels emerging from the gutters. Today, Fight Club boasts a loyal and fervent fanbase still full of praise, discomfort, conspiracy theories and fascination for the iconic relic of modern cinema.
Exclusively for Empire and Nev Pierce, David Fincher opened his personal photography archives in the 2020 Preview Issue, leafing through his memories on-set, and sharing insights on many of the film’s key ingredients – from the setting of Project Mayhem’s headquarters, to his stellar leading trio of Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter, to the mechanics of successfully shooting Edward Norton’s cheek off. Here’s a sneak preview of the feature, in which Fincher explains why the dynamic of his three stars, as the story’s mismatched trio of lonely and dangerous sociopaths, worked so well – with photos from Fincher’s own collection.
Fight Club archive material courtesy of David Fincher. Black and white photography by Merrick Morton. Special thanks to Ceán Chaffin and Andrea McKee.
David Fincher on his leading trio:
“They were a very playful and fun group. Brad is a kind of feline influence. He’s like, ‘Are all the instincts here aligned?’ and, ‘Can we now play and find an interesting mistake or a movement or a gesture?’ Edward is very much, ‘Tell me in advance all the things you want me to hit and let me blow your mind.’ And Helena is sort of a blend of the two. She’s disciplined and, ‘What is it you’re trying to get across? Let me work backwards from that a little bit.’
Edward had only made a few movies and I think he wanted to get it right. There’s a tendency for him to come across as somebody who’s trying to contain or control what’s happening. But really I think what he wants to know is, ‘Where is this thing headed? Let me try and help you get it there.’ He has a very different process than the other two. But when they were together, they were a lot of fun. As far as having an intensely watchable and charismatic triumvirate, they were a ball.”