David Fincher is a skilled irector. With only four films behind him, he is already one of the most interesting Hollywood directors of the recent period.
Having his roots planted in commercial and music clips, his films move, bite and stick closer to the aesthetics of these disciplines then the Hollywood mold.
Fortunately, his films have more to offer than being simply "in".
Fincher explores the Hollywood narrative vigorously, he doesn't shy away from shaking the foundations of the genres he enjoys and, from film to film, also manages to play with certain of his own personnel obssessions (paranoia, fatality, death).
His latest film, Fight Club, is without a doubt his most enjoyable and experimental work to date. A mad film in which the subject matter is mastered by Fincher and where his dearest themes are kaleidoscoped. A young insomniac employer (the great Edward Norton) finds himself in a turmoil after meeting a suicidal woman (Helen Bonham Carter) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), an anarchist soap salesman with whom he'll organize an underground fight circuit. There we have the film's premise.
However, Fight Club rapidely goes beyond this premise in order to explore a multitude of facets more absurd from one to the other. Of course, presenting these facets would reveal a good number of surprises which add up in the film. It is therefore uneasy to talk about Fight Club without making its sharp turns slightly more dull.
As in Se7en (and all the other films by Fincher), the characters find themselves caught up in a tightly woven net where they must invest themselves to the maximum in order to get out, their actions leading them to a catastrphic result. Fincher's films opt for a suprising ending and Fight Club is of no exception. More then a simple scriptwriter's brainchild, the final punch (pun intended) fits perfectly with the film's leading thread and this, even though many american film critics have vowed to the contrary, accusing Fincher of losing his grip along the way. Sarcasticly, the director has the nerve to reveal the final punch at the very beginning of the film. Through a long flashback, the spectator finds out why Brad Pitt and Edward Norton's characters are where they are. But the films construction is more then a long play on temporal elements. A clever spectator can quickly grasp the identity of the enigmatic Tyler Durden right from the film's opening credits.
Fight Club has the qualities of its faults. What could of been this year's gadget movie winds up being an event of seismic proportions in the comfortable world of Hollywood's film industry. The amalgam of discording subject matters (the fights, the making of soap, support groups) may appear to be a simple script exercise answering to the number one Hollywood rule : suprise the audience at any price. Of course, the end result is shady, but this semi-experimental characteristic (for a film of this class) is precisely what makes the film so enjoyable. Far from perfect, Fight Club answers primarily to the urgent need of losing balance, for Fincher as for his actors and audience. Brad Pitt does as Brad Pitt should do. His image is preciously studied in order to correspond to his fans expectations. Mad dog that he is, Brad Pitt gives an honnest performance as the mind-boggling Tyler Durden. However, he does not really part from his earlier prestations (notably in Kalifornia by Dominic Sena and Twelve Monkeys by Terry Gilliam). Furthermore, for a film which denounces the consumer society, it is contradictory and even idiotic to invest by millions (65 to be exact) into this subversive idea. The whole shape of the film reflects the chaotic end of the millenium, but is slightly too glossy and clean to do so. From Brad Pitt's wardrobe to the decor in the abandonned house where the characters live, all is arranged in order to correspond to the Hollywood image in film. In brief, behind all this craziness and allegations, we can feel the industry.
It would however be silly to turn our back on all the fun. One could even say that the Hollywood elements of the film add to the pleasure. How great it is to see stars of this calibre giving it their all. How great it is to see Brad Pitt getting the beating of a lifetime. How great a delight it is to savour on the cynical and cruel dialogue of certain scenes. In fact, Fight Club's strength lies more in it's contradictory state then it's subversive state. Cleverly, the film denounces what it is. A hybrid work, falsely provocative, which amuses itself by criticizing cinematographical and ideological codes which it uses in good number. As the men in Fight Club fight each other in order to build up a certain dignity, a now extinct machoism, so does the spectator confined to savour it's masculinity in a dark room. Closed to the film's allegations, he enjoys playing tough-guy during the projection and then becomes the disciplined consumer again as he exits the theater. Without a doubt, Fight Club criticizes the system, but it doesn't want it to change. Fincher prefers to laught at the overwhelming methodology which he makes his own. Even if Brad Pitt is telling the world that his role as Tyler Durden is one of his strongest performances to date, he is certainly not about to get rid of his credit cards. Fight Club is a huge farce, a cartoon on celluloid. One would have to be a total idiot to take it's allegations as golden rules.
The real shock which Fight Club has for itself is without a doubt it's "extreme" violence. Forbidden to those under 18, Fight Club is labelled a cruel film, shocking, on the verge of fascism. Yes, the film depicts graphic violence. Blood spurts, teeth fall, but very few get killed.
Violence isn't necessarely measured by the number of deaths, but nevertheless,it is interesting to examine the depiction of violence in the Hollywood film. Strangely enough, it seems normal to see brutes like Sylvester Stallone or Jean-Claude Van Damme pump a dozen or so characters full of lead with a smile on their face, just before spitting out a stupid remark.
Is it then in the anarchist allegations brought forth in the Fight Club that the violence resides?Isn't the ideology found in Stallone films also anarchist? All of this is a whole other debate, but it is obvious that Hollywood's hypocrisy has once more been revealed.