Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fight Club (1999)

The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you DO NOT talk about Fight Club. Third rule of Fight Club: Someone yells stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: no shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: Fights will go on as long as they have to.

And the eighth and final rule: If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.

The Flower and The Boy and I went to check out a revival of David Fincher's greatest film, and even though The Flower had been spoiled (she knows the twist in The Sixth Sense, too, which she's never seen), we all had a great time.

Fight Club is a fascinating film; to me the novel is of a piece with American Psycho and similar anti-consumer treatises that emerged from the amazing prosperity of the '80s and '90s. As such it does not, in a lot of ways, make much sense. For example, there's a real limit to how much damage you can do to financial records by blowing up buildings. Even in the '80s, those things were backed up, to say nothing of 1999.

And, more importantly, the "heroes" of such stories tend to be victims of consumerism. In Fight Club, the narrator constantly talks about what he's bought, but the closest the movie comes to explaining why he buys all that stuff is just that, well, he does. But conspicuous consumerism is about impressing others and The Narrator seems to have literally no friends or family or girlfriend.

Still, it's a thing. People buy stuff to buy stuff and it can make them very unhappy even while they do it. The idea that Tyler Durden puts into the Narrator's head: That he's the victim of a variety of societal traps is dopey, although preaching to Fight Club that they'd been raised to believe they'd all be rich and famous rock stars or actors or whatever probably has resonance to kids today. (It had, and has none with me.)
You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.
Fight Club is one of those movies I laugh practically non-stop through. It's wall-to-wall black comedy of a Swiftian sort, and chock full of quotable lines:
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. 
When it hits on truth, it hits on it in a big way.
The things you own end up owning you.
And it proceeds in fashion from a profound and sensible statement like the above to "so let's blow a lot of stuff up and pee in soup" in a kind of dizzying, insane logic that just fits the whole tone of the movie well.

It also holds up on each viewing, as you see things you missed or didn't really grasp the first time. Notably, the inserted frames (a frame or 2 at maybe a dozen points) are much more conspicuous now. I'm not sure if that's because we're used to quick flashes these days, or because it's digital and not film, or both.

Interestingly, the CGI, which was always stylized and not meant to be literal (for the most part) is very conspicuous. It's not horrible or anything, but it's not far removed from the Star Wars title crawl in terms of seeming antiquated.

I've always felt that Fincher's subsequent film, The Panic Room, was so (unfairly) poorly received because it was just a straight-up thriller with none of the pretensions of Fight Club. But his '90s streak: Se7en, The Game, Fight Club and Panic Room is one of my favorite movie streaks in film history. I really don't think any of his subsequent movies are as entertaining as these, though the first two thirds of Gone Girl measure up.
On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

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