Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Zodiac" Commentary #1

It snowed all night last night and I am home today hiding out from the ugly drive to Ames. With that in mind, you might get a few posts today since I will have time to finish up viewing the "Zodiac" Director's Cut HD-DVD.

As I mentioned earlier, I watched all of the extras on disc 2 and got completely creeped out by the material. Last night, I watched the film with David Fincher's commentary, and again, creeped myself out.

Most of us know and love David Fincher's work; "Se7en" blew all of our minds... "Fight Club" instantly declared a place within film history... and "Panic Room" made Jodie Foster look completely hot. Honestly, Fincher hits far more than he misses (though Greg and I could not get through "The Game") and he is a fascinating artist who loves to discuss the details of his craft.

The commentary for "Zodiac" is a good one - not the best - but very good. Fincher covers a lot of ground about how he was inspired to make the film. He grew up in the San Francisco area and in his youth the Zodiac killer took hold of the area and his imagination. Fincher mentions several locations that he picked for the film that are directly related to him personally - this fact shocked me because of his exacting nature for the details of reality according to the story!

Fincher also goes in depth on his method of shooting several takes (admitting he drove Jake Gyllenhaal nuts), points out some astonishing special effects work (erasing hair off of the hand of the actor who did Gyllenhaal's hand close ups) and some truly astonishing decisions to not use special effects (in the end of the film a title card shows the year as 1983 - yet a calendar on screen shows 1980... Fincher states he has seen old calendars in shops and did not feel the mistake needed fixing!!). Fincher also details his decisions to shoot certain scenes in certain ways - this is a fantastic insight into his method as a director and it demonstrates how one man's vision for specific elements can result in a large amount of work.

For example, the opening tracking shot of the film shows a camera shooting out of the window of a car as it passes houses in the Vallejo area... Fincher had to have the image inside the car be perfectly balanced and have the image outside of the car be perfectly balanced... this entailed building a track for the car and making the car into a rail car! The simple camera mounts would not cut it... he had to have that odd fluid movement to create a discomfort in the perfect stillness of the image.


Finally, one of the more interesting elements of the commentary concerns Fincher's choice to lean towards Arthur Leigh Allen as the Zodiac killer. Don Cheney (pictured above) was a friend of Allen's who came forward to the police to discuss some of the odd things he had heard and experienced with Allen. Cheney's story is truly unbelievable (Allen explained that he liked to kill couples and called himself the Zodiac - a full year before the Zodiac killer ever sent a letter!!!!) and Fincher was not sure about it (as we all are). So he decided to meet Cheney.

David Fincher, a movie director, someone who tells stories for a living... personally inserted his life into the real life tale he was telling. He met with Cheney and came away with the belief that this man was not a man who told lies or really was capable of doing so. He believed his story...


Might have time to watch the 2nd commentary later.


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