Monday, February 06, 2012

Too Perfect

The cult of David Fincher as auteur probably share diverse notions as to what his draw is. Perhaps foremost among them is his reputation for being a methodical, calculating perfectionist and demanding exorbitant amounts of takes in much of the same manner Kubrick is known for. Additionally, his work is often characterized by scenes showing a surgical precision exacted in getting deep into the viscera of the audience. But, on a more subtle level, the guy is uncanny when it comes to the focus he preserves throughout his vision, considering how large the scale of his work often is and how varied his source material has been.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011, Fincher) is only disappointing because the franchise it's based on is a series of international best selling novels. I get apprehensive about any movie that is poised to open across the world; you know, the big ones. Because in the end, mass market entertainment kind of has to be diluted, once it is served in such a large quantity.

Why does The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo work in Fincher's hands? Because he exceeds when it comes to this antiseptic, dark, cold Scandinavian milieu. The design of this film comes across as almost high tech in a sense. It just feels so modern. The barren landscape is complimented by desolate production design. I still feel the cold from that house--someone let that cat in!

In addition to the production design and art direction, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor again contribute to the soundtrack with post industrial electronic ambient soundscape type percussion that further advances on the styles they'd experimented with for The Social Network (2010, Fincher). These elements are also crucial to the Fincher touch.

The plot is banal and bores me.

The timeless, exquisite beauty of Rooney Mara is supported by her talent to deliver a convincing performance as Lisbeth Salander--the emotional core of this movie and the primary reason Fincher has captured my adoration here. This girl is modern in the sense that she epitomizes the counter culture of her generation. In the 50s, JDs wore leather jackets, white tee shirts, greased back hair, smoked cigarettes and rode motorcycles--this is Lisbeth's lineage--and in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the self-imposed Hollywood cigarette boycott is clearly flouted. So in a sense, Lisbeth seems like a return to the sure footing of the 50s, as opposed to the chaos and divergent cultural identities that marked, say, the late 60s. Or, should I say, she's a classic rebel, lacking political pretense. And who's she pine over? Who does any upwardly mobile Greaser go for? A Soc!

The denouement is more sugary than it was undoubtedly intended. She's supposed to be scarred, but it just feels like a small bruise. Nevertheless, I identify with, empathize with and root with her for the whole two and a half hours she's up there.

This is too black and white, good guy vs. bad guy for me. But, I'll admit, seeing a rapist get his comeuppance still generates that special brand of catharsis that hits me on the most rudimentary level. The bloodlust that comes with the urge for revenge against anyone who has harmed innocent women or children is one of the instances I'm most vulnerable to being manipulated when I watch films: and that in itself is an entirely different matter to delve into--I just know I try to keep an eye on that. For me though, it's almost a little like Fincher's talent is wasted on this kind of thing--he can usually find plot points that appear more unexpected.

I think his insight into the minutia of historical tabloid operas is his greatest strength. Don't get me wrong though: since Zodiac (2007, Fincher), I find all of David Fincher's movies endlessly rewarding. For me, he's the best working director in the business (uh-oh, superlative praise? I think it's warranted here).


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