How Did David Fincher Become the Kubrick of Our Time? A New, 3.5 Hour Series of Video Essays Explains

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 ClubZodi­acThe Social Net­workThe 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:

  1. “Bap­tism By Fire” (Rick Spring­field­’s music videos and The Beat of the Life Drum, assort­ed music videos and com­mer­cials, Alien 3)
  2. “Redemp­tion & Tri­umph” (assort­ed com­mer­cials, Se7en)
  3. “Cap­tur­ing the Zeit­geist” (The GameFight ClubPan­ic Room)
  4. “Into the Dig­i­tal Realm” (var­i­ous com­mer­cials and music videos, Zodi­acThe Curi­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton)
  5. The Bleed­ing Edge

Even though the series has­n’t yet reached The Social Net­workThe 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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Film­mak­ing Craft of David Finch­er Demys­ti­fied in Two Video Essays

Dis­cov­er the Life & Work of Stan­ley Kubrick in a Sweep­ing Three-Hour Video Essay

Every Frame a Paint­ing Explains the Film­mak­ing Tech­niques of Mar­tin Scors­ese, Jack­ie Chan, and Even Michael Bay

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 Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Sanchie Boots says:

    David Finch­er is a hack, His films are too long, and are usu­al­ly pret­ty dull. Visu­al­ly unin­ter­est­ing. Sad that you think he and Kubrick can even be men­tioned in the same sen­tence.

  • Henrik says:

    Strong­ly dis­agree on this.

  • Fred says:

    I watched Dr Strangelove again last night. Even with com­mer­cials it’s great.

  • Johann says:

    Fun fact: You just men­tioned both in one sen­tence, Sanchie Boots. No wor­ries, it did not make me sad.

    Aside from that, I know peo­ple who would say sim­i­lar things about Kubrick­’s films: too long, pret­ty dull — reminds me of Space Odyssey or Bar­ry Lyn­don. Don’t take me wrong, I love Space Odyssey (and Bar­ry Lyn­don too), but it still took me sev­er­al tries to watch it in one sit­ting (most­ly because I usu­al­ly start­ed out tired at 3am). But that is what some say.

    Still, I can under­stand the feel­ing one has, when a high­ly admired direc­tor is men­tioned with some­one whose films one does­n’t esteem to be even a quar­ter as good. “The Girl with the Drag­on Tat­too” was quite dis­ap­point­ing, so much that I did­n’t watch it till the end, I must admit — but after see­ing the Swedish film, it was just unbear­able. “Fight Club”, “Se7en”, and “The Game” were appeal­ing most­ly because of the sto­ry, though I liked the direct­ing of “Se7en”, too.

    “Pan­ic Room”, “The Curi­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton”, and “The Social Net­work” did not impress me much, I did not see much orig­i­nal­i­ty, unique­ness, or inno­va­tion about the direct­ing there, although that might have suf­fered because of the oth­er aspects of the films that were not as good as one might have hoped. “Alien3”, I watched to long ago to have a rea­son­able opin­ion about the direct­ing, “Gone Girl”, and “Zodi­ac” I haven’t seen.

    Over­all, my opin­ion is not very qual­i­fied, since I did not watch Fincher’s films pay­ing atten­tion specif­i­cal­ly to the direct­ing, just to the main aspects quite equal­ly, these are just my thoughts now that I think of the direct­ing in those films. Maybe I miss some­thing great here. Time will tell.

    Final­ly, it is not like Kubrick is the great­est direc­tor of all time — that would be just under­es­ti­mat­ing all the great films in the his­to­ry of cin­e­ma. There­fore, it should not make one sad to see Kubrick and Finch­er men­tioned in one sen­tence. Rather, it should make one think and reassess one’s opin­ions, maybe (re-)watch some of Fincher’s films (and of course, and always, Kubrick­’s, and if you’re at it, Kuro­sawa’s (think­ing of long films), Eisen­stein’s, God­dard­’s … — and now I can’t fin­ish this list with­out miss­ing some genius film mak­er, so I leave it at that.)

    Maybe, that is what I am going to do now (at least, some of it)…

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.