For this very special edition of Bonus Features, Jacob and Marten talk to David Prior, the writer/director behind last year’s criminally underseen horror picture The Empty Man. Over the course of our lengthy chat, David dives into his career as a special features pioneer during the the early days of DVD, and just what happened to his future cult classic at Disney/Fox.
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.
Se7en is a dark crime-horror fantasy, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, directed by David Fincher with cinematography by Darius Khondji. The film was a success both commercially and critically. However due to the complexity of the photographic process, it is difficult to be certain that any of the home-video releases reflect the image seen in first run showings. This article will examine the various video releases of Se7en, and explain the process by which they came about, and attempt to pick the best amongst them.
Se7en Through The Lens
During production careful consideration was put into developing the film’s ‘look’ by both the art department and the Cinematographer.
Super 35 cameras were used, which allowed the use of faster and wider ‘spherical’ lenses with shallower depth of field than comparable anamorphic lenses
The use of Super 35 also allowed some flexibility in re-framing shots in post production, since the film was intended to be projected in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio
On set smoke was used to reduce contrast and provide atmosphere to scenes
For some scenes the negative was ‘flashed’ using a Panaflasher to further reduce contrast, and bring out shadow detail
The film was pushed one stop (under-exposed and over-developed) to increase density and saturation
A Deluxe ‘Color Contrast Enhancement’ or ‘CCE’ bleach-bypass process was used for first run prints, increasing contrast, effectively crushing blacks
The CCE process was deemed too expensive for the majority of first and second-run prints, which were then struck from an inter-positive that had itself been bleach-bypassed, which approximated the effect of the CCE process. This meant that there would be differences between the first-run showings of the film, and subsequent runs