Monday, September 1, 2008

The Awful Truth (or What's With All Those Rules?)

David Fincher was a tributee at this year's Telluride Film Festival. Yay.

He was due to spend time with all fifty of the students as part of a Symposium discussion. It's not that he skipped out on it -- Mike Leigh (director of Naked, Happy-Go-Lucky and others) did that. To be fair to Leigh, it was a scheduling error and he's making up for it by visiting us tomorrow.

However, to return to the subject, I need to say something about Fincher. Out of any and all activities planned for the Student Symposium, I was by far most looking forward to our discussion with him. In that light, it's a terrific shame that he turned out to be the single disappointment with regard to this entire trip.

Fincher was soft-spoken, subdued and unenthusiastic to be among us students. His mind wandered as he answered questions passively or with one-word/one-sentence responses. Most filmmakers go into the business of directing films because they have a story to tell that is distinctly their own or at least a story of someone else's that the director feels a strong connection to in some nigh inherent. With Fincher, it turns out to be quite the opposite.

When asked about his method and aspirations for filmmaking, Fincher replied curtly to the student asking the question with the following sentiment.
"No, I don't bring my subconscious to work." (Fincher)
Neat, eh? No. Not really. Crushing? Perhaps.

Fincher described himself as a "functional illiterate," who rarely reads his source material before shooting wraps on his films. An example he gave was with his newest, yet-upcoming film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Although the film's about finished and due to be released, it was only months ago that Fincher finally read the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story that the film is based upon.

Fincher also mentioned that he has no projects that are personal to him. The above quote illustrates to a certain extent, but another sentiment does a bit of a better job at laying it out clean. Fincher mentioned that he never watches his films after completing them and went on to add that, in fact, he doesn't even enjoy his own movies after finishing them. My assumption here is that he meant to say (instead, opting for poor phrasing) that he enjoys the process of creation of a film rather than the end product, which necessarily represents catharsis and completion -- for Fincher, it seems like he would never finish a film if he didn't have to.

Another way to view this is that Fincher is a soulless directing machine, injecting absolutely zero personal feelings, wisdom, emotion or anything you can think of into his films. But this, quite clearly, is a drastic notion and admittedly pejorative. It's just nuts.

It is probably best to take these two views in contrast to one another, realize the validity of the first, discredit most of the ridiculous second and arrive at the honest truth (in my opinion) that Fincher does not represent anything of an auteur director. Fincher seemingly lacks the heart and soul that goes into a filmmaker like Spike Lee's movies, which is exactly why Lee will remain a constant forge of inspiration and Fincher will be placed on the back burner, though I'll never in my life stop loving The Game or Fight Club.


Mugsie said...

Seriously?! That is so so incredibly disappointing.
I'm not going to stop loving Fight Club either, but it does feel a little soulless to me.

Jill said...

First of all, I didn't get a chance to say bye to you at the festival and to reminisce about how fucking incredible it was. Surreal.
In defense of Fincher--his oral communication skills sucked. He didn't seem to care about sharing much with students, but perhaps that's simply because he never studied beyond high school. I perceived that the cerebral/subconscious elements of film freak him out, or perhaps that he doesn't know how to talk about it. Maybe he's being humble. Alas, his work speaks louder than his short time with us.

We were fortunate to see as many articulate artists as we did!

S. B. Prime said...


Surreal is the perfect word to describe our experience as part of the Student Symposium. Will you be returning next year?

In response to your perspective on Fincher, I cannot help but agree. I, too, initially thought that our status as both undergraduate and graduate students hungry for knowledge might have been a bit foreign to him, resulting in a unsatisfying stasis because, hey, he never went on to college.

But, I didn't include that on the account that I thought the view was a little too biased. That is, it seems true and logical to me, but he may have felt otherwise.

Again, I'll always love his works and prefer to imagine that he has an auteur hidden deep within that may have not been communicated in our forty-five minutes with him.

Also, keep reading, because I'll eventually get to writing about the other experiences as part of the Symposium.

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