07 August 2007

Zodiac (2007)

According to a number of internet critics, Fincher’s 160-minute police procedural is some kind of a masterpiece. It’s a gripping piece for much of its length and the editing is so fluid as to suggest a new classicism unfolding before our eyes. I’m thinking especially of the swirl of images and dialogue as Fincher criss-crosses his locations (the Chronicle office, the city police station, the county police station, etc.) as each party learns of a new bit of evidence. It’s the closest any filmmaker has come to adapting the propulsive, multi-camera modern shooting style (inherited from television) into a genuine aesthetic.

It’s masterful but it’s no masterpiece. There’s brilliant, elegantly expressed stuff dancing around the seams of Zodiac—nods to the racist fear-mongering of the era in a panicked police ABP, recurring jokes about how most Californians have no sense of the geography of their own state. But as a period piece, it’s skewed: the yellow walls of the Chronicle newsroom make a stronger impression than any of the brittle milieu that should be palpably surrounding them. This film says next to nothing about San Francisco in the early seventies and only a little more about media complicity in the commission of sensational crimes. What’s here is mainly an obsessive, unsolvable whodunit. At turns, it’s a rather pornographic one, too, with detailed imaginings of the Zodiac killer’s grisly murders; like most teen slasher films, we know what to expect when a young couple pulls off the side of the road. As Joanne Laurier writes in her review for the World Socialist Web Site (a more consistently astute source for film criticism than you might expect), Zodiac falls so short of thoughtful critique that it’s virtually indistinguishable from the exploitative firestorm it purports to examine. Its method is more personal and insular but it’s just as evasive.

Adept as it frequently is, Zodiac as a whole pales next to the sketch for a supremely creepy thriller buried in its eighth reel. By an extremely convoluted chain of speculation that bears no reprinting here, Jake Gyllenhaal finds himself in the home of another could-be-the-Zodiac, this one the proprietor of a repertory movie theater. He and Gyllenhaal descend to the basement, a dank pit stacked with rusty film canisters. There’s an expert template here for a thriller that draws parallels between the nocturnal musk of cinephilia and unfettered homicidal mania. It’s the seed for a grand metaphor to explore the aura of cinematic fatalism that stretches back to the days of nitrate film and the 1897 Charity Bazaar. It’s also, if only in contemplation, a much more interesting movie than Zodiac itself.

1 comment:

hollywood actors said...

Its frustrating movie. Its is more about journey means what journey it is. I don't like it at all. Its a bad movie overall.