Rob: Fincher #1
Ironically, ranking the films of David Fincher is proving to be more difficult than ranking those of Aronofsky and Nolan, even though I think I prefer those two overall (don’t ask me how that works). I’m watching or re-watching all of his 8 films (Alien 3, Seven, Fight Club, The Game, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Social Network), so it would take a while to compile an entire list in one post. Plus, I’m writing more about each one than I did with Nolan and Aronofsky, which would also make a single post much too long. For those reasons, I decided to just click them off one at a time, from top to bottom (the ordering is mostly because I still need to see the lesser work again to articulate exactly what I didn’t respond to). Let me say this: the top 3 spots are very, very close. The top choice might be a surprise to some (even to me), but I eventually realized that it just sinks in more deeply than the others (personal opinion).
#1: Seven (1995): Unlike Fight Club and The Social Network, Seven neither defines a generation nor taps into any vein of pop-culture whatsoever. As a result, it emerges as a timeless film: no distinctly socio-economic factors, no hint of self-consciousness or irony, and no experimentation with the formal language of cinema. This earnest, moody neo-noir (both on visual and philosophical levels) epitomizes “grit” in each of its component departments of craft. With a careful pace (much less brisk than Fight Club and The Social Network) the film gradually, but fiercely, digs its teeth into you before the realization that you’ve been on a descending climb into hell since the first minute. The investigation itself is fascinating: grisly in its physical suggestion of torture and inhumanity, terrifying in its psychological underpinning, and unremitting in its destruction of naivety. The character work is no less precise, as dynamics in relationships ebb and flow in what is a set-up for one of the most intense climaxes ever filmed, if only for the fact that its emotional brutality increases exponentially in retrospect. You won’t find cinematic joy here; you won’t find free-form expression in narrative devices; and you won’t find obvious originality in theme, structure, or visualization. You will, however, find a haunting experience not easily shaken, one that questions the nature of the world and the worth of those who fight for it.