Most film-lovers must long for the next Stanley Kubrick, a new thematically adventurous, aesthetically rigorous, big budget-commanding, and take-after-take perfectionistic cinematic visionary for our time. But some film-lovers believe our time already has its own Stanley Kubrick in David Fincher, director of such highly acclaimed pictures as Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, The Game, and Seven — excuse me, Se7en. And just like Kubrick, Fincher didn't start off at that level of the game. No, his career first gathered momentum with commercials, a bunch of music videos for the likes of The Motels, Paula Abdul, and Rick Springfield, and of course, Alien 3 — excuse me, Alien3.
So what exactly went wrong with that critically savaged yet (we now realize) auteur-directed chapter of the Alien franchise? That question gets addressed in detail early on in the latest multi-part video essay from Cameron Beyl's Directors Series.
You may remember that we featured the Directors Series' previous essay in April, but if you don't, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that it examined the Kubrick oeuvre. Beyl ended it with a declaration of his own membership in the aforementioned Fincher-Is-Our-Kubrick club, and cinephiles all over the internet thrilled to his announcement of Fincher as his next object of analysis.
To date, five episodes of The Directors Series: David Fincher have come out, which deal with Fincher's career as follows:
- "Baptism By Fire" (Rick Springfield's music videos and The Beat of the Life Drum, assorted music videos and commercials, Alien 3)
- "Redemption & Triumph" (assorted commercials, Se7en)
- "Capturing the Zeitgeist" (The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room)
- "Into the Digital Realm" (various commercials and music videos, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
- "The Bleeding Edge"
Even though the series hasn't yet reached The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl, you won't come away from the case Beyl has assembled so far unconvinced of Fincher's influences, preferences, and obsessions: crime, decay, punk, obsolete technology, architecture, surveillance, corporate and personal wealth, unusual illustrative visual effects, colors like blue and orange in high contrast, nihilism, predecessors like Ridley and Tony Scott — the list goes on, and will go on as long as Fincher's career does. It says a great deal about his filmmaking skill and style that his work has become so widely known for both its overwhelmingly "gritty, grimy" and overwhelmingly "cold, clinical" look and feel. But if any director can ever arrive at this sort of towering, contradictory reputation, Fincher can, and if any video essays can explain how he did, the Directors Series can.
Colin Marshall writes elsewhere on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, and the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.