Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

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Re: Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

#26 Post by Tribe » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:01 pm

'Fight Club’ Fight Goes On
November 8, 2009
‘Fight Club’ Fight Goes On

CULT films, the critic Danny Peary wrote in his 1981 book “Cult Movies,” “are born in controversy” and elicit “a fiery passion in moviegoers that exists long after their initial releases.” By those measures David Fincher’s “Fight Club,” a movie that stirred vitriolic ire when it came out 10 years ago and today inspires obsessive, often worshipful scrutiny in both lowbrow and highbrow quarters, is surely the defining cult movie of our time.

In his memoir Art Linson, a producer of the film, describes the aftermath of the first screening at the 20th Century Fox lot: ashen-faced executives imagining their higher-ups (including Rupert Murdoch) “flopping around like acid-crazed carp wondering how such a thing could even have happened.”

The nervousness over screen violence was at a renewed high in the wake of the shootings at Columbine High School, and this must have seemed like the worst possible time to release a film in which an army of alienated men, led by Brad Pitt’s charismatic Tyler Durden, an übermensch in a red leather jacket, engage in bare-knuckle brawls, antisocial vandalism and outright revolutionary terrorism. When “Fight Club” opened in October 1999 after much defensive maneuvering from the studio (which delayed the release and struggled to find a marketing hook), the pundits eagerly took aim.

“The critical reaction was polarized,” said Edward Norton, who plays the film’s nameless narrator, “but the negative half of that was as vituperative as anything I’ve ever been a part of.”

In one of the more apoplectic slams, Rex Reed, writing in The New York Observer, called it “a film without a single redeeming quality, which may have to find its audience in hell.” More than one critic condemned the movie as an incitement to violence; several likened it to fascist propaganda. (“It resurrects the Führer principle,” one British critic declared.) On her talk show an appalled Rosie O’Donnell implored viewers not to see the movie and, for good measure, gave away its big twist.

As many had hoped and predicted “Fight Club,” which had a budget of more than $60 million, bombed at the box office, earning $37 million during its North American run. But the film’s potent afterlife is proof that, as Mr. Norton put it, “you can’t always rate the value of a piece of art through the short turnaround ways that we tend to assess things.”

Not only has “Fight Club” performed exceptionally well on DVD — it has sold more than six million copies on DVD and video, and is being issued in a 10th anniversary Blu-ray edition on Nov. 17 — but it has also become a kind of cultural mother lode.

Besides elevating the profile of the novelist Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the original 1996 book, Mr. Fincher’s film has spawned a video game (featuring the Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst as a character) and a Donatella Versace fashion line (men’s wear adorned with razor blades). The swaggering gospel of Tyler Durden, much of it taken verbatim from Mr. Palahniuk’s book, has provided the cultural lexicon with one seemingly deathless catchphrase (“The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club”) and numerous pop-sociological sound bites (“We’re a generation of men raised by women”; “You are not your khakis”).

Reports and urban legends about real-life fight clubs and copycat crimes still pop up occasionally. In the academic sphere, as an Internet search of scholarly journals reveals, “Fight Club” has inspired a host of interpretations — Nietzschean, Buddhist, Marxist — in papers that take on topics including the “rhetoric of masculinity,” the “poetics of the body” and the “economics of patriarchy.”

Mr. Fincher, who crammed the collector’s edition DVD, released in 2000, with a trove of deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes supplements (all are available on the new Blu-ray version), said the movie needed time to be freed from initial preconceptions. “It was sold as, hey come see people beat each other up,” he said recently by phone from Boston, where he was shooting a film about the founding of Facebook called “The Social Network.” To his irritation Fox ran ads during wrestling matches, and many critics described it as a head-banging testosterone fest. But Mr. Fincher has observed that “women maybe get the humor faster,” he said, adding that young female audiences seemed to appreciate the film’s satirical spin on macho posturing. Reached by e-mail, Mr. Palahniuk went further and called the film “the best date flick ever.” “The ‘Fight Club’ generation is the first generation to whom sex and death seem synonymous,” he said, pointing out that the “meet-cute” between the characters played by Mr. Norton and Helena Bonham Carter occurs in a support group for the terminally ill. Having grown up with an awareness of AIDS, younger readers and viewers, he added, “could identify with the implied marriage of sex and death; and once that fear was acknowledged those people could move forward and risk finding romantic love.”

Mr. Fincher, Mr. Norton and Mr. Pitt, who were all in their 30s when they made the film (as was Mr. Palahniuk when he wrote the book), have each talked about being personally struck by the angry-young-man disaffection of “Fight Club.” When Mr. Fincher read the novel, he said, “I thought, Who is this Chuck Palahniuk and how has he been intercepting all my inner monologues?”

The movie’s arrival in the season of pre-millennial anxiety gave it the aura of what Mr. Norton called “an end-of-the-century protest.” A highly personal work made within the studio system, it also seemed like part of a larger cinematic groundswell. “There was a feeling that our crowd was starting to express itself,” Mr. Norton said, referring to a bountiful year for young American filmmakers that also saw revelatory works like Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia,” David O. Russell’s “Three Kings” and Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich.”

But as with all generational touchstones there is the matter of a cultural divide. “People get scared, not just of violence and mortality, but viewers are terrified of how they can no longer relate to the evolving culture,” Mr. Palahniuk said. Some older audiences prefer darker material in conventional forms; they “really truly want nothing more than to watch Hilary Swank strive and suffer and eventually die — beaten to a pulp, riddled with cancer, or smashed in a plane crash.”

The secret to the enduring allure of “Fight Club” may be that it is, as Mr. Norton put it, quoting Mr. Fincher, “a serious film made by deeply unserious people.” In other words, a film as willing to take on profound questions as it is to laugh at and contradict itself: what is “Fight Club” if not the most fashionable commercial imaginable for anti-materialism? A movie of big ideas and abundant ambiguities, it can be read and reread in many ways.

Mr. Fincher said, “Every once in a while someone will send me their thesis and ask, Is this close to the mark?” He sometimes shares the papers with Mr. Palahniuk and the actors but said it’s ultimately not for him to decide.

Mr. Norton agrees. “Joseph Campbell has that great idea about mythologies, that a myth functions best when it’s transparent, when people see through the story to themselves,” he said. “When something gets to the point where it becomes the vehicle for people sorting out their own themes, I think you’ve achieved a kind of holy grail. Maybe the best you can say is that you’ve managed to do something true to your own sensations. But at the same time you realize that this has nothing to do with you.”

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Re: Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

#27 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:18 am

Watched it again, and to my surprise it still holds up. I thought it would be one of those films that I'd grow out of. I felt it was pretty profound stuff when I was 17, and 15 years later some of that is still true. The line about fathers being our models for God and what happens when they fail really should have struck the chord it did now back then. I'd never considered my lack of traditional faith as having anything to do with my own situation, but I can clearly remember when he left that I did begin to question the whole idea of the man upstairs.

It really feels like a film of it's time now. Culturally, I remember 1999 mostly as Y2K paranoia and testosterone-driven drivel. In it's sort of hyper-driven pace, it probably could resemble something that would have felt at home with the sort of audiences Fox pandered to in promoting it. But the ideas would have clearly gone over most of their heads. And it's the ideas that elevate it beyond your standard thrillers of the time that were aping Tarantino (and even Fincher himself to a degree since there were a slew of Se7en-inspired pictures).

Beyond any of that, I still find it pretty funny. More in the physical humor (and particularly the brief shots of Jack in Tyler's place when the reveal happens) but it's still a clever picture. And still holds up. For me anyway.

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Re: Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

#28 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:26 pm" onclick=";return false;

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