Sorry for the length.
TedW wrote:Slow down, my man: nobody is telling you you are flat out wrong, and there is nothing "dismissive" about either post (the latter, according to you, being at least less dismissive). I deliberately acknowledged the legitimacy of your opinion to avoid precisely this kind of response. I am expressing my opinion (since, obviously, I have no actual knowledge of what really "crossed their minds," though, as I mentioned, I recall a DVD commentary that supported my claim; give my memory however much weight you like, though) and I am not obligated to argue with you at any time, nor am I obligated to even continue in this or any other thread, on this or any other forum, regardless of how much time you put into a post. I answered your question directly with my take without invalidating yours. But since we're here and I'm up typing...
Hmm. I think I was being hasty when I qualified your post (it was late, my apologies), but I still think you were being kind of dismissive when you said "Doesn't mean you can't read that into it, though." I take the phrase 'reading into' to mean putting one's own ideas into a film that doesn't actually have said ideas. In which case you're telling me I'm wrong without actually saying why, and I find that dismissive. I'm not angry, but I would like to actually discuss the things we're saying.
And while you're not obligated to make an argument to back up your points, it is the general way we do things on this board, and it is much nicer than saying (and I paraphrase): "I think you're wrong about what the film is doing. You can think that stuff if you like, but I think it's wankery" and leaving it there. I mean, would you appreciate that after you'd just taken the trouble to make a case for a movie?
TedW wrote: I was referring specifically to the lecture-to-the-camera moment as face-value, and your response to that is referring to the film as a whole.
Well my response does try to place it within the context of the whole. I don't believe in removing film scenes from their context and making an argument based only on that. But, taking the moment at face value, Brad Pitt looks and sounds rather demonic in that moment so I still don't think it's meant as a glorious, unqualified wake-up call or something. It is anyway just a recapitulation of things said throughout the movie, so I don't see it as trying to be only enlightening.
TedW wrote:Project Mayhem comes way too late in the movie;
The cultish behaviour (which ends as Project Mayhem) is not significantly delayed in the movie. I think it's just a bit over half way through before people are being asked to shave their heads, ect. But the idea I've been propounding is set up early enough in the movie in a crucial dialogue between Jack and Marla. Jack asks, thinking of their mutual relationship with Tyler: "What are you getting out of this? I mean, why does a weaker person latch on to a stronger person?" The answer, of course, is to feel strong oneself; but by the time the movie ends you realize that this promise of strength and masculinity--which began as underground fighting--has become an exploitation of the weak and the disaffected into carrying out acts of terrorism in the name of an anarchist ideology (Tyler dreams of people crawling through the rubble or Rockafeller centre). Norton spends so much time discovering that Tyler is himself because the movie needs him to understand his own weaknesses, and to do that, he needs to finally acknowledge the things about himself he's never confronted and that he's only hid from behind a strong, id-like alter ego. He needs to discover it's his own behaviour, not someone else's, that's destructive; and by the end he shoots himself in an act of self-assertion: "Tyler. Now I want you to listen to me very carefully."
TedW wrote:it's about an emotionally retarded man-boy who meets a girl he likes and can't process the implications of that in the normal way, and thus has a psychotic break, wherein he creates another personality, the ultra-id version of himself who (initially) can.
Well, yeah. He even says at one point, "I'm a thirty-year-old boy." And Tyler takes advantage of that with promises of manhood and power and whatever else (he positions himself as a father figure. See: the moment he leaves Jack), just as he does with a whole league of other thirty-year-old boys who want to feel like men. The film is about the feeling of powerlessness, but it's also about how said feelings can be manipulated, how they are dangerous and destructive. It might not be apparent at first, or even at all for some, but beating the shit out of other people in a basement doesn't make you a man: it's childish behaviour, no? Fight club, the actual club, provided temporary relief but solved no problems. It indulged infantile behaviour. Note that Project Mayhem's favourite form of punishment is to cut off someone's testicles, essentially removing them from the company of men. It's a frightening way to keep a cult in line: if you want to be a man you have to be within the cult, for anyone outside the cult is not a man and deserves to have his testicles removed.
TedW wrote:Along the way we get some anti-consumerist screeds (courtesy some of the most accomplished, highly-paid purveyors of consumer goods in the world -- which, natch, turned me right off, and perhaps that's just my glitch and not the fault of the film
Well, they may indeed be hypocrites, but that doesn't make what they've said about the negative effects of over-consumerism wrong.
TedW wrote:and a little bit of indie-band nihilism
The film is not nihilistic, tho'. It does not believe that nothing matters: when Marla and Jack hold hands at the end and watch the buildings fall, it's not an empty gesture, it's what should have happened two hours earlier. A film about taking responsibility for one's destructive behaviour cannot be nihilistic.