Fight Club: Subliminal Tyler

Fight Club is David Fincher’s 1999 classic which is listed as an all-time great and is a certainty to be found on many peoples personal favourite films lists; however it’s not only it’s iconic story, great characters and extraordinary film-craft which makes Fight Club stand-out, it is the extreme detail in which it dives into, become not only a modern-classic; but a post-modern filmmaking master class. Its display of post-modernism is highlighted as within the opening sequences, before we are officially introduced to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a series of subliminal styled flashes occur showing our character, the idea that it is post-modern is due to how Tyler himself shows us later within the film how filmmaker’s can achieve subliminal messages. As we find out later in the film, its Jack (Edward Norton) who  creates Tyler as a manifestation of his sub-conscious, to cover-up and to cope with his unhappiness due his slowing fading life which is looked at as pointless; however the very moments where Tyler flashes on screen is carefully orchestrated and very telling.

The Office is the first time we see Tyler Durden; his expression is very confused and dazed; as if he had just fallen into a different universe wondering where he is. Jack’s lines “Everything is just a copy, of a copy, of a copy” as he scans work through a photocopier, it’s all very telling, urging us to realise Jack has just made Tyler! Tyler is just a copy of Jack; they are the same people!

Tyler is then seen next in the Hospital, the doctor tells Jack “Swing by First Methodist Tuesday nights. See the guys with testicular cancer. That’s pain.” but Tyler stands behind with a grin, almost laughing at him. Is he laughing at Jack’s issues? The Doctors advice? or simply the idea that people think they know what pain and trouble is.

Tyler carries on mocking our cast and characters, this time in the Therapy Sessions he appears, the leader orders “Let’s all of us follow Thomas’s example and really open ourselves up.” Tyler with his arm around the guy, looking smug but once again a face of ridicule; thinking to himself Jack’s not going to find answers here; these aren’t men!

Tyler then stands in between Marla and Jack as the pair seem to walk away and gaze at each-other after a very textbook meet-cute. He’s obstructing them, showing Jack the one thing he make’s him promise later on.. Stay away from Marla!

Then Tyler appears in Jack’s hotel welcome video, he is on the far right on the front row, screaming welcome almost telling the audience he is soon to appear, as Jack slowly looses hope.

Then we see Tyler, not a flash but a long drawn out shot just before the two officially meet. He’s wearing his hyper-real clothes, but the way it is filmed is important, Tyler almost emerges out of thin air but more so straight from Jack’s body as the two pass on the escalator! The camera then follows Tyler all the way up as if he was our main character.

Then Tyler and Jack finally meet side by side on the plane and the first line Jack says is “Look we have the same briefcase”, or in other words, “Look we are the same person”.

 

 

 

 

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Fight Club (1999)

Genre: Drama

Director: David Fincher

Writers: Chuck Palahniuk, Jim Uhls

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

Rating: ★★★★★

Fight Club is something special, a film which is like no others in terms of story, action, characters and the ridiculous detail that has been sweated over to make everything just that extra bit phenomenal. It is a film which amazes you the first time you watch it, and then the second, third, fourth all have the same effect as you start to notice little in-jokes and hidden elements. The writing is great, dialogue beyond great, with the acting, directing and look being completely lovable and “sexy”. Fight Club is definitely a favourite, definitely a classic and definitely a film which deserves every single bit of praise it gets.

Our main focus is Jack (Edward Norton), Jack isn’t his real name, we don’t find out his real name, but will we call him Jack, for Jack sounds better than simply “the narrator”. He is the narrator however, and he tells his story looking back on how he has ended up spitting vowels onto a dirty gun that’s been shoved down his throat. He’s a slave to Ikea, his job and his insomniac mind which will not let him sleep, on the way back from work he arrives to find his condo blazing and his much loved furniture nothing but burnt fragments lying on the floor. He has nothing, everything that he is was in that apartment, and so he rings Tyler (Brad Pitt). Tyler is the most interesting single serving friend Jack has ever met; Tyler sells soap and briefly shared his plane journey with Jack earlier that day and the two meet and Jack stays at Tyler’s house. The lifestyle is different, there is no nice furniture, TV, hot water, yet Jack is happy, he is free. Tyler and Jack create Fight Club, a place where men can be free, where pain is a replacement for fear and violence is a replacement for crying, there is no therapy just fighting. However Fight Club catches on, gets out of control, and soon spirals into Project Mayhem which could spell oblivion, but what it means for Jack is much much more.

Fight Club is mind-blowing in every sense of the word, to tell more of the story is a crime but it withholds one of the greatest plot twists and endings to a film. Jack is a modern-day man; he represents most men, a generation of men which have been raised in a feminist society, but is that right? The film speaks so much, Tyler speaks so much, and when analysed you can see so many ideas and the brilliance behind the concept. The concept of this story is great, two men, Tyler and Jack creating something so simple yet so dangerous and something that is apparently somewhat nature for men. It is much more though than the fighting, Jack and Tyler have a relationship with Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) a lost soul, yet it brings so much excitement and thrill. The story involves humour, everything from the character of ‘Bob’ to fight club homework assignments, then the action with explosions and soap, and finally the mystery, the absolute awe of what has been created and witnessed.

However one of the most likeable aspects of Fight Club is our characters, Jack for starters is just a slave to the world, but what he turns into is very different, rebellious and free we like him and admire him. Tyler is the definition of fun; no-one who sells soap and wears flower suits can be as cool as Tyler. Then Marla, it all starts with Marla, she is witty, and despite neglected she is so important. Brad Pitt is brilliant and so is Edward Norton, they portray their characters flawlessly, Pitt is fun just like Tyler, whilst Norton although more serious is likable and sympathetic just like Jack.

Fight Club is in my opinion the best film Fincher has ever directed and he certainly is remembered for it. The directing is new, and clever, the explosion scene in the condo is a single moment which highlights this alongside the opening title sequence. Fincher creates a dark gloomy look but it complements the exciting characters and story in a strange way. The effects are great, the fighting looks real, the blood looks even more real and the aftermath of “Blondie’s” fight looks brilliant. Everything within Fight Club seems faultless. The score should also be mentioned, its electric feel is needed whilst the end song is somewhat nostalgic to hear, let alone completely complimentary.

Fight Club is unexplainable, once watched more than once your admiration increases. The writing is one of my favourites, from dialogue to the wrapping up of each storyline and plot. The overall product is flawless and there’s no wonder why it is regarded so highly.  It is my favourite performances from both lead actors whilst they are also both of my favourite characters. Fight Club is a classic, and there’s no debating about that.

 

 

 

 

 

David Fincher as an Auteur #2

My second post discussing David Fincher as an auteur will focus on his depressing and negative endings which often show failure, sacrifice or suicide. It is a common thing for Fincher to involve himself with a film that is actually gritty, grim and dark such as Se7en, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and even The Game; however the endings and climax are always very important.

Fincher’s first directing role in Alien 3 shows this, it’s a cruel horrible world inside this prison where you are only waiting for your imminent death which is slow and tiring. An alien creature invades along with a lost and injured Ripley, a female isolated in this male dominated society and world which sets up a very harsh storyline. However at the end of the film there is no victory or success for either the prisoners or Ripley who we follow throughout, following a spray of guns the prisoners are shot and Ripley commits sacrificial suicide as she jumps into a pit of burning flames. As an audience we have nothing to be happy about, our main characters are all dead and with no victory showing how rubbish and cruel the situation was.

The same feeling is portrayed in the ending of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; throughout the film we follow the subplot which shows the growing relationship between our two main characters Mikael and Lisbeth. Lisbeth is someone who we feel very attached too and sympathetic towards, however at the end of the film dressed up and ready to meet Mikael she witnesses him leave with another woman leaving her distressed and upset. It is heart-breaking to watch, again there is no positive ending for the film or our character showing just how cruel this world is and society is.

Se7en and Fight Club two of Fincher’s big classics and all-time greats also follow this same outlook and perspective, mainly focusing on suicide. At the end of Se7en our main character witnesses his wife’s head decapitated in box and then gets himself arrested for shooting her murderer which is the serial killer being chased throughout the film. We can only assume that Mills is going to spend the rest of his life in a prison cell, alone and hopeless yet he knew this would be the chosen path when he pulled the trigger on John Doe therefore technically committing suicide as he kills of his future. Fight Club has the similar ending after an emotional and somewhat crazy journey our main character stands with a gun in his mouth ready to end it all, the same situation in The Game. Fincher creates this very depressing feeling of injustice, giving the message that the good guys don’t win in society. Se7en even ends with Somerset’s lines “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.” This sums up the films and in a way Fincher’s message.

It is fair to say that Fincher has a negative look on society and life in general especially in his first set of directing roles. It seems that if you want Fincher behind your film, you better make sure there are no happy endings and it isn’t a romantic comedy.  Negative films and depressing endings are definitely and unarguably a trademark of David Fincher, if you didn’t see my last post on his representation of women click here.

12 Years a Slave (2014)

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Director: Steve McQueen

Writers: John Ridley, Solomon Northup (book)

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender

Rating: ★★★★★

One of the most anticipated and recently talked about films 12 Years a Slave has been grabbing the headlines for various nominations and wins that has earned credentials labelling it as one of the best films ever made. With all the buzz and speculation surrounding Steve McQueen’s newest phenomenon the expectations were set very high before viewing, but I can firmly say they were matched and exceeded. 12 Years a Slave captures such intense horror, pain and emotion in truly amazing style resulting in a flawless film from script, cast, crew and score. I can easily say that it will be a film to scoop not only many nominations but many Oscars in February’s prestigious ceremony.

12 Years a Slave is a beautifully crafted portrayal of the harsh and brutal experience of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a freeman who was captured, tortured and then sold into slavery. We follow Solomon’s story starting in Upstate New York, Saratoga, where he’s a respected member of the community, having a family consisting of a wife and two kids in which he provides for by working as a violinist. However his happy and joyous life is soon taken away as he finds himself chained and imprisoned in a basement deep in Washington where he is then beaten and sold into slavery.

Solomon’s day-to-day routine soon consists of brutal beatings and unhuman labour as he is passed around from slave owner to slave owner until he eventually settles down on the plantation of cruel Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). He soon finds himself a target due to his dignified actions and gets caught up in an act of jealously between plantation owner Epps and a young slave girl. After many attempts and ideas of escape failing, Solomon finds hope when meeting a Canadian abolitionist named Bass (Brad Pitt) in his twelve year.

12 Years a Slave portrays such a tragic and horrific story with such art and realism you can’t find a single fault. Each painful and brutal beating and whipping is shown with such horror and precision it’s truly powerful. Steve McQueen captured such emotion with his film forcing you to get so wrapped up and involved in the story, you feel the need to help Solomon out constantly creating a great amount of sympathy.

The performances captured and displayed by all the cast are brilliant and I personally feel it’s one of the best displays I’ve seen in recent years with so many standouts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the obvious highlight as he plays the traumatised Solomon Northup throughout but his performance is far from glamorous and showy but real and painful. With such a display there will be no surprise that he’ll be up to his neck in best actor nominations. Michael Fassbender too should be applauded for a great performance and one that is surely the highlight of his career. The brilliant ensemble was then further added too by low key but perfectly executed displays from both Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch.

It is obvious that it was the acting and performances that made 12 Years a Slave shine but Steve McQueen’s also added his respectable brilliance that again should be rewarded with a fistful of best picture nominations. Many awe-inspiring bright scenery and life-like shots featured throughout breaking up and juxtaposing the brutality of the other scenes with its admirable beauty. 12 Years a Slave although only a month into the New Year is firmly staking its place as the highlight release from 2014.

Not only does 12 Years a Slave achieve such powerful and impacting results due to the technical and acting quality but the real-life biographic element truly finishes this film of. Adapted from the book from Solomon Northup – Twelve Years a Slave writer John Ridley has worked wonders. When the words “these events actually happened” lay place upon the screen it is then the pain truly seems to hit in along with the heart-ache.

There are no questions about it that 12 Years a Slave will be the one to beat come the Oscars and there’s no competition when it comes to comparing Steve McQueen’s biographic drama to other films reflecting the horrific slave-era. 12 Years a Slave is a must-see release that will be referred to for a long time to come, emotional, powerful and truly impacting 12 Years a Slave is faultless.

 

My Favourite 10 for 2013

Since I have now viewed most of the 2013 releases I had originally intended to here are my favourite 10. I know I have already posted My 2013 Awards but here is a more formal list, fortunately I don’t have a habit of going to bad screenings so my list was a bit of a headache to conclude and finalise.

#10

“Different”, “Refreshing” and “Tense”

#9

“Fun”, “Alive” and “Heart-felt”

#8

“Thrilling”, “Clever” and “Chilling”

#7

“Pleasant”, “Touching” and “Powerful”

(Reviewed Here)

#6

“Fun”, “Entertaining” and “Brilliant”

(Reviewed Here)

#5

“Master-class”, “Violent” and “Brave”

#4

“Fun”, “Entertaining” and “Simply Great”

(Reviewed Here)

#3

“Touching”, “Inspirational” and “Magical”

(Reviewed Here)

#2

“Visually-Flawless”, “Tense” and “Special”

(Reviewed Here)

#1

“Breath-Taking”, “Tense” and “Stunning”

(Reviewed Here)

Captain Phillips concludes my 2013 list and gets named my favourite film of the year. I only wish I had reviewed more of them but I’m sure I shall with second watches. Feel free to debate and comment about my choices and it would be great if you’d name your top 10 films of 2013 below!

Se7en (1995)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker

Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman

Rating: ★★★★½

Se7en is thrilling, intelligent and iconic. David Fincher’s creation is possibly one of the best thrillers ever made, making for one of the most tense and suspense-filled viewings you could experience. The well-executed story is unique and gruesome, whilst the film editing, performance and sound all combine to produce a great end product. Se7en is David Fincher making a film that not only entertains but scars.

The story surrounds two cops, young “in your face” rookie Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) and his partner Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) who’s  old, calm and philosophical. The pair investigates a series of murders but soon realise that the killer is imitating the seven deadly sins with his victims, killing greed, gluttony, envy, sloth, pride, lust and wrath to teach “society” a lesson. However Mills and Somerset are up against an intelligent and sick-minded individual who uses the two detectives like puppets on a string, always being in charge. The film fuels from the hunt for the brutal serial killer, but as the story and case unfolds two of the best plot twists in cinema history unravel resulting in a thrilling nervous viewing experience.

Se7en has become such an iconic film due to its ability to provide in every area and element. The screenplay is the best from its genre and era combined, as it puts more than a few twists on the classic generic “cop vs. killer” thriller. The idea of embedding the seven deadly sins is brilliant and the way Fincher adapts this idea is pure gold. As the audience we see every drop of every blood spilt and every single centimetre of decayed flesh that leaves a gruesome image in your mind. As an audience we are really engaged and attached, the idea is that we are on this case and journey with Mills and Somerset, completely mystified, isolated and fearful. David Fincher again adding the components of a horror to astonishing effects, the dark foreboding feel and look created by his much used technique of a “bleach bypass” creates a much depressing film and experience leaving you stunned.

The performances captured by both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are award-winning. Freeman’s portrayal of Somerset is great, creating a realistic display, my favourite being within the final scene. Brad Pitt was outstanding throughout and from his display especially that final scene again there’s no wonder that Fincher keeps recalling him. Technically Se7en is brilliant too; whilst many will shine praise onto the editing that was nominated for the Oscar I personally admire the score. The almost droning sound gets underneath your skin, making you constantly on edge. Howard Shore the composer to its original score deserves much credit.

Se7en was Fincher’s first blow-away film, it was from here that you knew more would follow and they’d get better, nastier and braver. Se7en isn’t an old film, but nevertheless it’s still popular at just over a decade on and I can see it being timeless and having an endless shelf-life. The final scenes alone will blow away competition from others, Se7en has this unique structure, it was very fast and upbeat throughout but during the end it slows down. This again un-eases the audience, it steadies us for one of the most horrific film endings. The impact Se7en has is remarkable. You walk away from the film reflecting on what a cruel world we live in. It’s that connection we have to the film and the characters that make it so special and what creates that impact. Se7en is certainly one of the “classics” from the last quarter-century and a film you really need to watch. It’s also a film that shows of classic Fincher.

David Fincher as an Auteur #1

Just before I review Se7en the next film on my list, I thought it would be good to analyse Fincher as an auteur and pick out a key trademark in between my reviews. So here is my first obvious and somewhat brutal trademark of Fincher – his absolute expressed hate for women. Now thinking back to any films in general that you’ve watched it is a common occurrence to have a woman playing the damsel in distress and for her to get injured and hurt, but it seems that Fincher goes that little step further in ALL of his films to get across the message that its males that dominate society.

His first major film whilst being in the prestigious and important director’s seat was Alien 3 (1992) where he first instigated this hatred for women. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crashing onto an all-male prison island is completely isolated and is in a society completely dominated by men. She is stripped of her femininity by appearance and is treated poorly as she is undermined throughout. She is the only female character in this film and despite battling this Alien creature showing some signs of strength she is at threat to male dominance constantly. The ending of the film despite a heroic sacrifice by Ripley shows that she didn’t win her battle as she leaps into a pit of fire not only killing herself but the unborn queen alien. The overall message of the film seems to sum up that a male’s world is brutal and violent, when women simply enter this world they can’t win, they’re hopeless. It might seem much read into and a vague judgement, or maybe it is all just a coincidence?

Se7en (1995) Fincher’s second most popular film, it follows similarly the same idea of Alien 3. In the criminal world it is dominated by males, there is not a single female police officer or woman with a high-status or role within the film. Once again this male dominated society is absolutely brutal with murders and serial killers, something a woman surely couldn’t handle? – Well according to Fincher. Detective Mill’s (Brad Pitt) wife is the main female character within the film; we only see her do one or two things throughout? And one is occupying that feminine role within the kitchen as the men do the hard gritty jobs. In the final scene as none of us can surely forget, we see her head in a box as John Doe completes his final sin. Completely uncalled for, no reason whatsoever that she was killed other than to fulfil John Doe’s plan. However and despite this coincidence again, just like Alien 3 our only female main character is dead and can’t survive in this male dominated society.

The Game (1997), it is a strange film to say the least as most characters play a double-role, one in this fake world “the game” and the other in real life reality that doesn’t become too clear till the end. Our main protagonist is a man who is in the business world and once again no female characters are competing in this society, males dominate completely. The main female character is Christine and even though she is playing her role in “the game” she is presented as highly promiscuous, deceitful and manipulative.  Even after the game has finished she still retains no power what so ever in this world.

Skipping Fight Club (1999) as the film itself presents too many things to even contemplate thinking about and looking into we jump to Panic Room (2002). A criminal world is again laid out for us, one dominated by males. The story plays very much to the damsel in distress stereotype; it labels our two female characters as weak and vulnerable for the majority of the film. It sets up this world where our main character Meg is in an absolutely fragile state recently divorced, an alcoholic (by the first two scenes) and relying on money from her ex-husband she is totally dependent. Alone and in charge with responsibility this brutal male world victimises her and her fragile severely diabetic daughter. Burglars, part of a criminal world (male dominated) break into their house and take advantage. Okay okay, two get killed and the other arrested as the female characters fight back however throughout the film they are vulnerable and still dependant on males. The daughter’s life is saved by the burglar and the intervention of Meg’s ex-husband causes helpful delays. The main message though is that women are inferior to males in society.

Finally, as if I carry on much more the term “male dominance” may become somewhat hypnotising I shall skip to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) a film actually based on book that was once drafted “Men who hate women”.  We follow a male journalist who’s in an industry that has become very financial and business like, once again something that women can’t handle. The only professional woman in the industry is his boss, who rather unprofessionally he has an affair with.  Our main female character is a subject of constant pain that is inflicted by males. A rape victim, and a sufferer of a hard life due to her abusive father she becomes a private investigator. Again isolated, socially and physically. Everyone who she reports to for either governmental or occupational reason is a male and one who eventually rapes her. The story itself follows a criminal case that investigates a series of murders where young girls and women are victims of brutal killings and rape. In the end of the film there is a happy fairy-tale ending set up as our main characters journalist Mikel and private investigator Lisbeth seem to be in a relationship, however as Lisbeth goes to meet him she witnesses him with his boss, riding off with her dreams dashed and once again alone in this male dominated world the film ends.

This is just all analytical reasoning, but it seems fair to say especially from my perspective that David Fincher likes his films to show male dominance and to play on the stereotype that it is females that need saving. Obviously this is a very controversial look, but nevertheless one that I am currently studying and that see quite frequently appearing and popular. Next time you watch a David Fincher film, future releases such as Gone Girl maybe? Or just an old classic bear in mind this trademark and see whether it fits.

Everyone’s thoughts and opinions? Discuss.