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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Zodiac

I wish I could be more positive about Zodiac. I am a big Fincher fan and I think he is capable of real greatness. He is also capable of tying himself up in knots of nothingness with his clever brain. Zodiac is such a twist.
No question, Act One is the best. Here is where Fincher is able to do what he does best and to do it with some new turns. Even the odd beats – which, with a perfectionist like Fincher, had to be intentional – like a woman driving a car and losing any pretense of watching the road, basically works, since Fincher is so busy channeling Hitchcock and a ton of specific movie references along the way.

The rest…

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16 Responses to “Zodiac”

  1. tyler666 says:

    Congratulations David, you has just become the new Ken Thuran!

  2. bmcintire says:

    Oh, Dave. Not that it will matter much to you, but you should prepare yourself for ZODIAC to become another CHILDREN OF MEN for you. For my own sake, I hope it does. Granted, I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t really comment, but I loved Cuaron’s pic and would hate to be disappointed by Fincher’s.

  3. David Poland says:

    How am I “the new Ken Turan,” Tyler? Because I think Fincher missed this time? Or was it because I was the most aggressive defender of Fight Club in Los Angeles?
    I have no problem with defending my position, BMc. In the end, they are opinions. But even if one disagrees with me, if they are fair, they have to see that my opinions on these two films are not unconsidered or rash… just not the same as some other people.
    I hope you love Fincher’s or whatever film you love. I’m not here to convince you. Not my job. But I am interested in your opinion of the film, even if we disagree. It’s called discourse and I think it will survive the web.

  4. bmcintire says:

    And defend it you will. I am guessing this opinion is going to inspire even more vitriol than CHILDREN OF MEN and DREAMGIRLS combined.
    By the way, I finally caught THE LIVES OF OTHERS this weekend. Liked but didn’t love it, and was frankly surprised to see that it had inspired so many champions toward its nomination and eventual win. Right up there with (or frankly, just below) BARBARIANS AT THE GATE. Oh well.

  5. Jeremy Smith says:

    I watched THE PARALLAX VIEW a week or so after seeing ZODIAC for the first time, and was stunned (in a good way, I think) at how fully Fincher had assimilated Pakula, right down to the seemingly inconsequential use of Pong. More than anything, ZODIAC is an aesthetic exercise, especially if you’re already well acquainted with the particulars of the Zodiac case. Fincher’s not after anything as conventionally excellent as the Kyle Secor arc on HOMICIDE (good call, by the way); the narrative, and the characters, are just familiar elements Fincher employs as he evokes a deep and seductive sense of mystery he has no intention of resolving. It’s actually a kind of audience cruelty (and most audiences will hate the piss out of this movie), but it’s also a bravura piece of filmmaking and, ultimately, unlike anything I’ve seen since Pakula gave up on the thriller genre in the late 70s. It’s *not* a masterpiece (many of DP’s criticisms are completely valid), but it is essential viewing if you give a shit about film.

  6. mutinyco says:

    One of the worst things that ever happened to me was reading a screenwriting book when I was younger. Because it made me watch every movie for a year and a half from the perspective of that traditional 3-act formula. And when a movie didn’t quite fit into it, I had a difficult time relating to what it was trying to do — since it was “incorrect” form.
    So I forced myself to the pass this kidney stone. It didn’t hurt that taking a weekend class with Syd Field where he spent hours scanning through hit movies to show how correct he was did more to disprove his theory than solidify it.
    Yes, there are certain films that very much benefit from a traditional structure. There are others that work simply because they don’t. In fact, most really great filmmakers have been more interested than not in experimenting with the narrative form — Kubrick, Godard, Bergman, Welles, Coppola, Antonioni, Altman, etc. Even Martin Scorsese’s films have been very loosely structured and episodic.
    What matters isn’t that traditional structure, so much as forward momentum. As long as the narrative FEELS to an audiences like it’s moving forward and going someplace, digression and experimentation will be accepted.
    And if I recall correctly, William Goldman never uses that structure when planning out his scripts. He thinks more pragmatically about what scenes he thinks are required to simply tell the story properly while developing what he feels is necessary. His process is more organic than a strict structuralist.
    Anyhow.

  7. David Poland says:

    What’s your point, Mutiny… since Fincher’s film does have a three-act structure?
    I have no problem with films that don’t have conventional act structure. None of Malick’s do. ALL of Fincher’s have.

  8. Blackcloud says:

    I saw “Children of Men” today, finally. I have no idea what David said, since I avoided the discussion so as not to get spoiled. But I’m sure I agree with him at least 88%. The movie is overblown and underthought. It makes “V for Vendetta” look like a paragon of reasoned discourse. And “V” is dumber than a box of rocks.

  9. David Poland says:

    Scoutt Foundas captures exactly what is wrong with Zodiac, while raving the film:
    “The form of the film

  10. jeffmcm says:

    Boy, I sure look forward to seeing this. I’m trying to remember the last time I agreed with DP on a film – probably The Departed 🙂

  11. mutinyco says:

    …Simply that you initially thought it was rather formless, but upon seeing it a second time it had a standard 3-act structure. Just sounded as if it was more acceptable to you by existing in that form.

  12. Tofu says:

    Blackcloud: Funny you should mention Vendetta in the same context as Children of Men. VfV carries clear cut central villains that the CoM novel provided, while the film version of CoM was more ambiguous like the VfV comic.
    Of course neither is interested in reasoned discourse. Narratively, those barriers had been lost long ago, and provocatively it would carry far less impact.
    The disappointment that there was not even a hint to sex in the film is going to make me laugh years down the line when I hear a similar disappointment for our own time now.
    “I forgave this while watching, but it occurs to me now that New York was a hotbed of patriotic politics and hero worship at the time of the first half of this film, but you would never know from watching this.”

  13. Drew says:

    Just curious by way of comparison, David… what did you think of Spike Lee’s SUMMER OF SAM?

  14. I have no idea why I loved Summer of Sam so much. It’s crazy.

  15. Kambei says:

    I’ll be watching ZODIAC this weekend, but, from the trailers, it appears the comparison to MEMORIES OF MURDER is an appropriate one. It would be very difficult to make a better film of a failed attempt to capture a serial killer than that one, however.

  16. 555 says:

    This probably means I will really like/love this movie, since I’ve disagreed with DP on many of my fave films, notably Huckabees, Kill Bill and The Fountain.

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“But okay, I promise you now that if I ever retire again, I’m going to ensure that I can’t walk it back. I’ll post a series of the most disgusting, offensive, outrageous statements you can ever imagine. That way it will be impossible for me to ever be employed again. No one is going to take my calls. No one is going to want to be seen with me. Oh, it will be scorched earth. I will have torched everything. I’m going to flame out in the most legendary fashion.”
~ Steven Soderbergh

I feel strongly connected to young cinephile culture. The thing about filmmaking—and cinephilia—is that you can’t keep hanging out with your own age group as you get older. They drop off, move somewhere. You can’t put together a crew of sixty-somethings. It’s the same for cinephilia: my original set of cinephile friends are watching DVDs at home or delving into 1958 episodes of ‘Gunsmoke,’ something like that. The people who are out there tend to be young, and I happen to be doing the same thing still, so it’s natural that I move in their circles.

In terms of the filmmaking, there was a gear shift: my first movies focused on people around my age, and I followed them for three films. Until The Unspeakable Act, I was using the same actors, not because of an affinity for people at a specific age, but because of my affinity for the actors. I like to work with actors a second time, especially if I don’t feel confident casting a new film. But The Unspeakable Act was a different script, and I had to cast all new people. Even for the older roles, I couldn’t get the people I’d worked with before. But when it was over, the same thing happened: I wanted to work with Tallie again in the worst way, and I started the process all over again.

I think Rohmer did something similar around the time of Perceval and Catherine de HeilbronnHe developed new groups of people that he liked to work with. These gear shifts are natural. Even if you want to follow certain actors to the end of their life (which I kind of do) the variety of ideas that you generate makes it necessary to change. And once you’ve made the change, you’ve got all these new people around.”
~ Dan Sallitt