“So everybody bitches and moans about how many takes… People I’ve never even met complain about how many takes I shoot.”
Just about the last thing anyone wants to do is enter the mind of pure evil, let alone hear it meticulously, and deliciously describe its murderous exploits. That a view inside of its horrifying headspace has resulted in such eerily intoxicating music is a testament to the powerfully emerging voice of Jason Hill in “Mindhunter.” Created by serial killer media enabler par excellence David Fincher, this acclaimed Netflix series’ twist is that we barely see any violence at all. Rather, the acts and its reasoning are told to FBI profilers Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), who traverse the country to find out what makes madmen tick. That the birth of the agency’s serial killer profiling unit is no work of fiction makes their subjects’ descriptions all the more terrifying, if no less fascinating in the awfulness that’s drawn entertainment to these predators again and again. That Jason Hill hears the recording sessions, and their effect upon the agents, with such dark poetry is all the more unsettling.
If the interview subjects of “Mindhunter” have seemed to emerge from the shadows, seemingly out of nowhere, the same might be said (if not murderously) about how Hill’s innovative talent has burst upon the binge-watching scene. With only one scoring credit for a dirt biking madman behind him, Hill’s production work for the likes of David Bowie, The New York Dolls and The Killers along with his band Louis XIV have led him into Fincher’s company – a band of musical profilers whose work has ranged from the raging orchestra of Howard Shore’s “Se7en” to the subtle, conspiratorial piano of David Shire’s “Zodiac” and the piercing electronics of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ “Gone Girl.”
Hill’s realization of a twisted psyche is just as uncommon and original, eschewing the kind of dissonance that scores most associate with serial killers, Hill’s soundtrack for this hit, ten-part series is poetic, even beautiful in its crystalline use of sound and samples, music that suggests a voyage to an alternate, shimmering universe far more than it does a basement torture dungeon. Its ethereal, even poignant stuff, yet with a tonality that tells us something is unholy in its deceptively surreal bliss. Even as brilliantly crazy as Brian Reitzell’s music was for the equally astounding “Hannibal,” there’s never been quite a serial killer show, or soundtrack like “Mindhunter.” In no small part, we can thank an essentially newfound composer who’s brave enough to hear shocking words that might drive others’ insane, and turn the description of the deeds into things of hypnotic, unearthly beauty that dares us to turn away. And like the subject of the increasingly unnerved agents, Hill is the killer who keeps the tape machine running, now describing in detail to us how he draws listeners ever deeper into “Mindhunter’s” entrancing madness.
2014. “She” cover for the Gone Girl Teaser Trailer
Produced, arranged and mixed by Jason Hill. Featuring Richard Butler on vocal.
2015. Music for Videosynchrazy (fuckin’ HBO)
6 tracks. Written, Performed, Produced and Mixed by Jason Hill.
Thanks to Dante
People’s willingness to rebrand themselves as monsters without remorse is an alarming, puzzling trend of modern society. It may be hard to find an explanation outside of human selfishness and narcissism, traits director David Fincher has made a career out of depicting and deconstructing. He’s conjured timelessly horrific hellscapes where serial killers blend right in with films like Se7en and Zodiac, and hit a more socially applicable nerve tearing down self-righteous white male privilege in 1999’s Fight Club. But his most haunting and refined work ties directly into the anxieties of this decade—that of social media and all the opportunities it provides to forge new identities. With The Social Network, Fincher showed a social outcast turn into a trailblazing tech celebrity while losing friends and being fueled by spite toward his ex-girlfriend. His under-appreciated follow-up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo saw a more selfless social outcast seeking personal love and acceptance for the first time, only to have her hopes crushed and resume a life of indifference.
Gone Girl, the 2014 adaptation of a bestselling paperback thriller, feels like the inevitably demented amalgamation of questions Fincher proposed in Network and Tattoo. Are there new consequences to controversial or intimate information being immediately shared to the public? Can one convincingly build a new persona strictly from their online or media perceptions? In the third installment of what could reasonably be called Fincher’s “tech trilogy,” the answer to both is a resounding yes—one stained by blood and deceit.
When one of the great directors of a generation announces their next project, the film world listens. It is rare, however, for said announcement to be puzzling. Martin Scorsese is creating his treatise on faith in Silence? Of course he is. Kathryn Bigelow is making the true story of the Detroit riots? Sure, why not? Paul Thomas Anderson’s next untitled film starring Daniel Day Lewis is about a dressmaker for the Royal Family? Sounds award worthy. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. And then there’s David Fincher.
As most know, Fincher certainly got off to a rough start as a director. After cutting his teeth on music videos, he was tapped to direct Alien 3. The tales of his struggles on that particular film are legendary at this point, and he has basically disowned the movie and refuses to speak about it. After a three-year hiatus, he returned with Se7en. This success helped launch his career to the next level. He is now seen as one of the best directors available, easily on par with the others previously mentioned. But unlike most top directors, Fincher does not seem to always reach for the brass ring. Instead, he seems to vacillate between premier projects, like The Social Network or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, to more eccentric choices, such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Gone Girl.
Gone Girl may be Fincher’s oddest choice to date. The film, based on the best selling novel by Gillian Flynn, is nowhere near an awards contender or at least not at first glance. Any number of pseudo-negative descriptions have been used to chronicle the details of the book; trashy, over-the-top, a beach read, the list goes on and on. Given the stunning sales of Gone Girl, a film adaptation was inevitable. But to be directed by the creator of two films that arguably were the best of their respective years, in Zodiac and The Social Network? Very unlikely.
No genre illustrates the evolution of cinema better than the crime film. As recently as the ’90s, Hollywood regularly released stories of cops-and-robber showdowns and mystery-thrillers based on best-selling novels — but as the middle class continues to disappear from Hollywood films, smart crime stories moved to television (see: “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Night Of,” et. al.).
Outside the studios, there is a longstanding tradition – from the B-movies to the Coen brothers – of new directors showcasing their filmmaking chops with dark, stylish, and intense crime sagas. A surge of new filmmakers in the ’90s brought fresh interpretations to the genre, from the pastiche of “Reservoir Dogs” to the unnerving realism in “Boyz n the Hood.”
These days, many of the best contemporary directors — including Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Mann, the Coens, Park Chan-wook and Spike Lee – still love the genre, which has created some of their best work. This list surveys many of those recent highlights.
“What’s the point of being together if you’re not the happiest?”
TO CELEBRATE AMERICA, WE’RE TAKING THIS ENTIRE WEEK TO LOOK AT HOW CINEMA HAS EXPLORED THE AMERICAN DREAM. FOR MORE, CLICK HERE.
Gone Girl is a fascinating case study of the American Dream, and most of that stems from Amy Elliott Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike). I don’t quite know how to describe her or even label her – is she an antihero or is she an outright villain? I suppose that depends on whose side you’re on – Amy’s or her husband, Nick’s (Ben Affleck). And even then, the pendulum of opinion can swing constantly.