I hadn’t seen David Fincher‘s Gone Girl before creating this list. I felt I’d let his latest film simmer for a bit before attempting to figure out where exactly it fit within a filmography that now spans 22 years.
I must also confess to being a David Fincher fanboy. It was Fincher’s films before any other that got me to start looking at the way movies were made and who was making them rather than simply consuming one after the other. His leaning toward dark and brooding material is as much about his taste in the movies he makes and his approach to movie making. Even with films such as The Social Network, looking at the fellas behind the creation of Facebook, Fincher delivers a dark, moody and atmospheric piece of cinema. But let’s not spoil the conversation of each film before getting to the list.
What follows is my ranking of Fincher’s first nine films, from Alien 3, to Se7en and Fight Club, to Zodiac and finally 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s somewhat amazing Fincher has been working for 22 years and Gone Girl will only be his tenth feature, but that’s why each of his films is so hotly anticipated. That said, let’s see how good those first nine turned out…
I’d hesitate to say Fincher has ever made a bad film, but at the same time I don’t think I can call Alien 3 a good film. In a recent interview with Playboy, when asked about his first feature film he said, “I was a 27-year-old rube trying to navigate an impervious bureaucracy. It was an absurd and obscene daily battle to do anything interesting with what we were allowed to do.”
Fincher came to Alien 3, following in the footsteps of Ridley Scott and James Cameron, after working on videos for Madonna‘s “Express Yourself”, “Oh Father” and “Vogue” and in a set visit report at Empire, Sigourney Weaver even mentions her trepidation in working with a first time, music video director, “I was a bit apprehensive about having a guy who directed Madonna videos direct this movie,” she said. “So I asked him, at one of our production meetings at 20th Century Fox, in Los Angeles: ‘How do you see the character of Ripley?’ He said, ‘I see her bald…’ I immediately liked the idea. I guess I was relieved that he had any image of her at all. That told me more about how he saw this film than anything else. He saw Ripley as very vulnerable — her against everything and everyone. And I liked that. All I said was, ‘Well, if I shave my head, then my price goes up.’ Everyone laughed nervously. I didn’t get another dime!”
In that same set piece everyone seems to acknowledge the troubled production and Fincher hints at how the studios lorded over him during production saying, “After every day’s filming, there are questions to be answered from LA. I get a report after they have seen the dailies from the previous night’s filming. It is a matter of keeping the show on the road, however many issues I have to deal with… I am not allowed to forget that this is a very big opportunity for me… In fact, I am reminded of how big it is on a daily basis.”
Fincher wouldn’t make another feature film for three years, but boy what a leap in quality it would end up being… more on that shortly…
Fincher recently said his wife told him, “Don’t make The Game” and looking back he now seems to think she was right. “We didn’t figure out the third act, and it was my fault, because I thought if you could just keep your foot on the throttle it would be liberating and funny,” he said. I know what I like, and one thing I definitely like is not knowing where a movie is going.”
Maybe this is why I have so many issues with the film that finds Michael Douglas being tormented buy a new, real world “game” that seems a little too real. Here’s what I wrote in my review of the Criterion Blu-ray:
All that said, here’s is an audio commentary snippet featuring Fincher discussing his cinematographic choices.