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2008 comments (2012 Update below):

I am pessimistic that I will manage to catch up with all the best films of the year before all the best films of next year come in, but – hey – if you don’t start… The greatest wave of attention Zodiac enjoyed was about the strange fact that a new film by David Fincher did not receive any public attention at all, not to speak of box office. I was completely puzzled by this, because never since I first saw a film of his did I see anything boring or non-interesting.

I think the reason is that audiences have a general reservation about “True Stories”. I wrote before (I think in the context of “Ray” and “Walk the Line”, among others) that I think it is in general a bad idea to do biopics. Even under the best of circumstances (say, an interesting life, on the edge, live hard, die young, let’s say “The Doors”) does reality suffer from a severe lack of cinematic pace and narrative structure. Even more so when the “case” does not have a proper ending, as it is an unresolved crime case. Grissom would have cracked that jackpot within 42 minutes, of course, but this story plays in California, and so there is no CSI team at hand, and consequently the story stretches basically between 1969 and somewhere around the year 2000.

You have to admire Fincher for what he is able to pull out of this stop-and-go narration: the intensive quest for more information, the reversal of roles between the newspaper cartoonist (Gyllenhaal), the investigative reporter (mbllmmbbll rbert dwney jnr) and the only guy who has a mandate to catch a murderer, namely the police detective (Mark Ruffalo). They are all manic in their own way, they all get off and on track over time, and all that time you have to admit that nothing really happens. That murderer was a bit lazy, he was also a bit of a show-off, and at some point some character realised it in the movie: “Come on, of how many murders do we really know that he committed them?” and it is not even enough to call him a particularly monstrous example of his profession.
All is beautifully shot, beautifully designed, beautifully played (if you like rbrt dwney mmble jnr’s mumbling, even he will appeal to your taste), and a little bit too boring to make it match expectations. It is also one of the few films I will want to see again, because there is a truckload of information that is delivered through dialogue, and there is a bit of rapid-fire dialogue getting out of control on this at times. It is what I call the “JFK Trap”, with the ambition of really shedding light on the mystery, all these really interesting and really important bits and pieces coming together to make a really mysterious mystery… script writers fall into this reality trap sometimes when they fall in love with the story. Fair enough, but it is not good for the film!
I am quite on the side of the Guardian review on this
While the Observer is a bit more enthusiastic
And Robert Ebert

UPDATE 2012-04: Indeed it was worth watching it again, I was less bored by the script being too chatty and overburdened with information (I was, however, reminded again of JFK and how some writers just dump information on the audience as if they were a garbage disposal site), I could follow it a bit better, and I could appreciate, even admire the beauty of the images and the camerawork more than first time around. It is no coincidence that, despite the lack of audience box office enthusiasm, the film has gathered a steady following: it is frequently quoted as Fincher’s most mature work (no wonder), and many name it their favourite  by this particular director. While I am not sure about that (I am still on the Team Seven for this), I liked it much more than in 2007, and I believe it is one of those films that will stick around as a classic, lending itself to repeat viewing.

One Comment

  1. Your right this is a film that I need to re-watch, I first saw this when it was initially available on DVD. Was certainly watching films with a less critical eye at that point. If your a Fincher fan this is certainly worth viewing. I like your update of the film review.

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