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 Thrilling Parallels Between Detective Somerset and John Doe in ‘Se7en’

Emily Kubincanek
August 24, 2018
Film School Rejects

How can the good guy and bad guy be so similar?

At the core of any story is the relationship between protagonist and antagonist, especially in a story where the protagonist must understand his enemy in order to find him. The best battles between good and evil are convoluted with characteristics that could be categorized as either, or neither. When hero and villain are more alike than either would want to admit, that makes for a dynamite struggle between them. There are so many books out there that explain how to achieve that element in storytelling, but few movies ever do it as well as David Fincher’s serial killer masterpiece Se7en (1995).

Honestly, we’ve learned to expect nothing less than greatness with a Fincher + serial killer collaboration, and Se7en was his first. This almost neo-noir thriller follows the investigation of a serial killer using the seven deadly sins to justify brutal killings all over an unnamed city. Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is an aging homicide detective on his way out of the department when he’s assigned the worst last case. He’s paired with his replacement, an idealistic and determined young detective named Mills (Brad Pitt). They’re forced to work through their differences to solve the case, which is more horrifying and unpredictable than either could imagine.

There are viable arguments for who is the true protagonist in this movie, Somerset or Mills. For the sake of reading the rest of this article, just humor me if you disagree that Somerset is the protagonist in this story. He begins and ends this movie, most of the struggles are his own, and he’s in 90 percent of the scenes. While Mills has a major relationship with the killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey) as well, what convinces me that he is not the protagonist is the connection and similarities between Somerset and Doe.

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The Best Movie Trailer Ever Came Out Eight Years Ago. It’s Still The Best

I wish I was special.

Adam Epstein
July 19, 2018
Quartzy

In 2009, shortly after The Social Network—then known only as “the Facebook movie”—was announced, Mashable ran a story with the headline, “No, You Cannot Turn Facebook into a (Decent) Movie.” Even after it was reported that the brilliant filmmaker David Fincher would direct Aaron Sorkin’s script about Mark Zuckerberg and the early days of Facebook, the Huffington Post published a story proclaiming “The Facebook Movie Puts the zZzZ’s in Zuckerberg.” Some months later, after the film’s cryptic, one-minute teaser trailer hit the internet, the Atlantic remained skeptical, predicting that The Social Network would be “deadly dull.”

People said the film sounded “like parody,” that it looked like “a train wreck,” that the whole thing was “asinine” and made them “weep for humanity.”

Then, eight years ago this week, that all changed. On July 16, 2010, Sony Pictures released the first full-length theatrical trailer for The Social Network, made by the artsy trailer house Mark Woollen & Associates, upending the narrative surrounding the film almost overnight:

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Mark Woollen & Associates - Logo

Mark Woollen & Associates

The Social Network

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Gone Girl

Opinion: SE7EN’s John Doe Didn’t Succeed as He Planned

Jonathan Barkan
July 3, 2018
Dread Central

David Fincher’s 1995 psychological horror/thriller Se7en is one of most enduring and terrifying films of its kind, standing alongside the likes of The Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac, Frailty, and The Vanishing, amongst others. The tale of two detectives, one new to the force and one on the way out, searching for a serial killer whose victims are chosen according to the seven deadly sins, Se7en was lauded upon release and was wildly commercially successful.

While the gritty, grimy, darkness that pervades throughout the film hovers like a miasma of evil, it’s the ending that has cemented the film in cinema history. I urge those who have not seen the film to avoid reading any further because this piece will delve deep into spoiler territory, ruining a great deal of what makes this film so special.

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Mindhunter as Social Research

Jonathan Wynn
March 5, 2018
Everyday Sociology Blog

I recently watched a Netflix show called Mindhunter. The show—based on a non-fiction book—is about the beginnings of a crime division in the FBI that attempts to tackle serial killers.

If you’ve ever taken a sociology class, the first and most obvious thing about the show are the explicit references to our discipline! One of the main characters, Debbie, played by Hannah Gross, is a graduate student in sociology, studying deviance. In the first episode Debbie explains the sociological approach to deviance to her date, a somewhat listless young FBI agent named Holden (played by Jonathan Groff of Hamilton and Glee fame). In a bar she admonishes Holden: “You teach about criminality but you’ve never heard of Labeling Theory?” (Although, granted, Debbie doesn’t get Durkheim right.)

The characters of the show are, in a way, responding to what they see as newer kinds of deviance, wherein killers inflict extreme violence upon strangers, often with some repetition in manner and types of targets. The FBI agents have a puzzle they want to solve, and they find that older theories, concepts, and facts (largely informed by movies and Sigmund Freud) inhibit their understanding of what they see on the ground. One of Holden’s teachers asks the sociological question: “Are criminals born, or are they formed?”

Halfway through I realized that this was a show about a research team conducting social science. Holden and his partners—a grizzled former military-man, Bill, and Wendy, a professor of psychology—spend the season slowly piecing together new terminology, building their new understanding of deviance through multiple interviews with murderers and some rather engaging dialogue between each other.

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George Michael and David Fincher’s “Freedom! ’90” Music Video Gets a 4K Remaster

2017-11-09 Studio Daily - George Michael and David Fincher_s “Freedom! _90” Music Video Gets a 4K Remaster 03

Headjar Productions Scanned More Than 30,000 Feet of Archival Footage for Channel 4 Documentary

By Bryant Frazer / November 9, 2017
Studio Daily

An iconic music video has gotten a rare 4K remaster. As part of a documentary project for U.K. broadcaster Channel 4, director David Fincher’s promo clip for the late George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90” featuring supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford has been rescanned from the original camera negatives at 4K on a Blackmagic Design Cintel Scanner and graded in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio to match the look of the original, NTSC-resolution music video.

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Blackmagic Cintel Scanner Used on Channel 4 George Michael Documentary

November 8, 2017
Black Magic Design

From ‘Zodiac’ to ‘Mindhunter’: 5 Visual Elements that Define David Fincher’s Cinematic Universe

Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt breaks down how the look of Netflix’s “Mindhunter” builds on Fincher’s well-established style.

Chris O’Falt
October 19, 2017
IndieWire

David Fincher is one of the most distinctive visual storytellers working today. On his new Netflix’s show “Mindhunter,” the director’s well-established visual style and use of film language is carried throughout the entire Season 1 arc, despite Fincher having only directed four of the ten episodes himself. IndieWire recently talked the show’s principal cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt – who was once Fincher’s gaffer, and shot 90% of “Mindhunter” – about what defines the cinematic style of the great auteur and how he built off the look of “Zodiac” to create something we aren’t used to seeing on TV.

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