Monday, March 05, 2007

David Fincher connects the dots with Zodiac

Zodiac is a huge (160 minutes, with surprisingly brief end credits) new crime thriller as a combined effort of Paramount and Warner Brothers (we see more of that these days), and yet it is sometimes being shown in art houses (such as Landmark's Bethesda Row theaters in Bethesda, MD). The central story is the relentless, self-driven investigation of the Zodiac murders from 1969 into the 1980s by San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith, played by the lanky Dutchman (by ancestry, at least), Jake Gyllenhaal . There is the sidekick journalist Avery played by Robert Downey Jr., and Jake doesn't meet his police counterpart David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo). Gyllenhaal never ages a day in the 15 years spanned by his part, while San Francisco takes on the look that we know it for today.

But in the movie Fincher makes other connections. The Zodiac, according to his notes, killed to recruit slaves in the afterlike. An earlier Fincher masterpiece, Se7en (aka Seven) (1995), has the cops chasing down a killer carrying out executions according to the Seven Deadly Sins, in a film that is in a fantasy noir style, compared to this film that is more grounded. But even more interesting is the connections that Fincher makes to the early action film (and Richard Connell story) The Most Dangerous Game, which has become known as a paradigm for the struggle between "brains" v. "brawn" as well as a riddle about who the most dangerous enemy may be.

Fincher's Se7en has inspired other crime mysteries following a similar paradigm: Joel Schumacher's 8 mm (about snuff films), and Philip Noyce's The Bone Collector.

Nice guy Lee Norris ("One Tree Hill") makes a cameo in the opening scene and you don't like to see a character like him "get it." It turns out that, however kneecapped, he survives.

There is an earlier film, "The Zodiac", 2005, distributed by ThinkFilm, directed by Alexander Bulkley. It had a USA working title of "In Control of All Things." It is being shown in mid March on TMC. I have not yet seen it. There is a fictional takeoff (2004) from director Ulli Lommel (maybe Australia) and Lions Gate.

Picture: Still of Prettyman Courthouse, used in The Bourne Ultimatum (previous post).

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