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David Fincher’s Impossible Eye (nytimes.com)
73 points by prismatic 3 days ago. | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments





Fincher seems to me like a remarkably brilliant director. But I worry that this emphasis on his attention to detail contributes to a view that directing is akin to micromanagement, and that the best directors are the best micromanagers. Yes, Kubrick and Fincher and many others are perfectionists. But they are only one school. The author even acknowledges this briefly.

> Fincher has leaned toward a “very classical” visual rule book whose fundamentals predate French New Wave and vérité.

Filmmakers such as Agnes Varda or Truffaut wouldn't care about a camera bumping or a light being off. Varda made The Gleaners and I on a digital camera in the early 2000's and I'd put it up against any Fincher.

I don't mean to dismiss Fincher. But there's definitely this image of a director being this picky person yelling "cut cut" over the smallest issue.


Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker has been known to use takes that don’t match up (e.g. cup in hand, cut, cup not in hand) as long as the emotional truth carries through.

The more movies I watch the more I agree with this philosophy. Either the movie works or it doesn’t. If continuity helps the movie work, then great. Otherwise who cares?

If you went up to Herzog about a continuity error, he’d probably tell you to get a life.


I don't think it's that simple.

As an anecdote i've recently seen Extraction with Chris Hemsworth, great movie but in the middle of the first big action scene, the camera goes through the windscreen of the back of the car without the glass being shattered. It was enough to pull me out of the action into a moment of disbelief.

Breaking continuity has a cost


How is that a continuity break? It's not like the camera is a real, solid entity in the movie's fictional world.

Yeah that doesn’t make sense for me. The camera isn’t real but just a virtual pinhole with a screen on the other end. A “window to another world”.

It felt like noclip=1 for a second. I genuinely liked it. You are within the action, but it reminds you that you are an omniscient and untouchable spectator.

Sounds like the emotional truth of the action didn’t carry through.

This reminds me of the scene in Shutter Island where Teddy interrogates a female patient and the glass of water is absent in subsequent frame. Many of us wonder if it was deliberate or not. I was leaning towards deliberate but now reading this I am wondering if I gave them too much credit.

I think something that obvious was intentional. Especially since it fits directly with the protagonist's mental state and his phobia of water. Water features prominently in that film for a reason.

Perhaps that's true. I wouldn't put it past Scorsese. It does remind me of this though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9dbO56vl3A

I was thinking the linked video would be this. Free Churro is my favourite episode(well there's Time's Arrow, View from the halfway down, The Old Sugarman Place, Fish out of water) in any TV show ever.

I mean, he is infamous for "breaking" Gyllenhaal on Zodiac, after 80 takes

Which is probably his worst film. Expending more effort on a more rewarding ending would have been time better spent.

I think the lack of a rewarding ending is what that film is all about!

not having the movie explain itself in the end was the real reward.

The point of the film is that all the work was for naught

Definitely disagree

> The camera moved at the same speed as Affleck, gliding with unvarying smoothness, which is exactly how Fincher likes his shots to behave.

I appreciate this so much. There’s a lot of shaky cam out there and it often gives me motion sickness or confuses my understanding of the scene. It also feels like a cheap trick directors use to create faux excitement, or to cover up sloppy filmmaking.

Fincher movies are easy to watch and understand visually. He does a lot of wide shots and long shots without sloppy cuts. In Panic Room he did a single shot (although CGI) that lasted several minutes and showed the viewer around the entire set in a single uninterrupted view. It was glorious.

I wish this approach was more common. Although I expect it’s not because it’s hard to accomplish.

Here are two of the worst abuses of fast cut, shaky cam scenes out there:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCKhktcbfQM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNlmRId2FVQ


Couldn’t agree more. I’ve turned off a few movies because of shaky cam. Every now and then for a bit of drama or action is ok but not the entire damn film.

Shaky cams are abused in "western" cinema to hide the fact that the studios never have the time to give their actor skills to act out an action scene.

In contrast, "asian" cinema either stars actors who can do a large chunks of their own action scenes, or spend time training them.

On top of that, "western" cinema doesn't even know about how our eyes and brains perceive the world. Every Frame a Painting has a very good video essay on how Jackie Chan films action scenes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1PCtIaM_GQ Note how punches are filmed.


Actors don't avoid action scenes because of lack of time. But because...

1) Doing your own stunts steals work from the stunt team, who are payed per stunt. It's greedy and narcissistic because...

2) An injured star can shut down (temporarily or even permanently) a whole production.

3) The vast majority of films made in the 'West' are not action films, and the vast majority of action films are not martial arts films.

4) There is no single 'western' cinema. Hollywood has numerous directors, some workmen, some auteurs, and European cinema has enormous diversity.

5) There are indeed terrible directors and DOPs who use confusion to paste over the gaps in their own capacity to convey action. They're not anything like a majority, and are outnumbered by more classical directors like Spielberg, Fincher and Nolan, who have an excellent grap of visual space, pacing and blocking.

6) Every frame a painting is fantastic. Perhaps you should watch more than one episode?


This is absurd. Calling something "western" with obvious derision and speaking to folks not knowing how our eyes and brains perceive the world, is seriously hindering my even desire to want to engage in your point.

It should be no shock that cinema makers, by and large, double down on what cinema buyers are into buying. There is a clear feedback loop there and it has led to some results.

That you could get to different spots with different audiences is not really a surprise. Nor is it a requirement that one audience is wrong.

My hypothesis on the shaky cam is that makes it harder to try and take in details that are not essential. In large, you can't take in any details and can only remember it after the fact. You have to, in a very real sense, fill in the details on your own. With a bias knowing how things actually ended. Is why the shaky cam footage usually is brief and gets to a conclusion faster than drawn out fights. This probably limits the enjoyment from going back on something, but realistically most folks don't repeat view things anyway.

Making things more deliberate in fights wouldn't make things better or worse. In fact, I have grown tired of them in well choreographed fights, even. Real fights are quicker. With advantages compounding rapidly. Did you get the first good hit in? You are probably winning. Are you the bigger opponent? Probably winning. Mysticism is fun to watch, no doubt. But especially when movies try and claim their is no mysticism involved, it just gets tiring to me.

Now, are there still other ways? Absolutely. For myself, I have actually grown to dislike most movies and other visual mediums for the reason cited above and, in large, because books work better for me. Do I think this means that folks are better adapted to books? I mean, maybe. Probably not, though. Likely it is just my perspective on how this stuff best flows.

(And as a closing shot, I'm remembering that I love watching ballet. A well choreographed and executed dance is amazing to watch. Without me having to suspend any disbelief on whether someone could actually win a fight. :D)


This video by Every Frame a Painting is a really good introduction to Fincher's style:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPAloq5MCUA


Somewhat tangentially, I love the movie Alien 3. The longer cut is obviously a more coherent movie, but I find even the theatrical release enjoyable enough.

It's harsh, dirty, somewhat chaotic, and unapologetically brutal in a way that matches, poetically, the setting.

I think it also helps that, despite it being released a few years beforehand, I get a strong Quake (2) vibe from the colour palette and setting of Alien 3, and that serves to further endear it to me.


Alien 3 is a masterpiece. The acting, visuals and the music are like nothing else. I understand people got pissed when they ditched the surviving characters from Aliens. But in Alien 3 it all makes sense and the film stands on its own.

Agreed, I never understood the hate that film gets.

It basically took a needless stab at everything awesome that survived from the second movie.

I even agree with everything said above. It is nicely dark and gritty. Matches the setting really really well, all told. It gained nothing from being a continuation of the previous one, though. And killed a lot of emotional enjoyment you could have by rewatching the previous one.


Well even Fincher hated it

>I had to work on it for two years, got fired off it three times and I had to fight for every single thing. No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/feb/03/david-fincher-i...


> “I get, He’s a perfectionist,” Fincher volunteered. “No. There’s just a difference between mediocre and acceptable.”

Ah, spoken like a true perfectionist :)




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