The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#51 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Nov 11, 2023 5:11 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2023 4:16 pm
I have been mulling over that Fight Club connection. I don't know exactly what I want to say about it yet, but the hitman's monologue is performing something like the same function as Tyler Durden, just on a less extreme and psychotic level. I think Erlich's comment is a lot less flippant than it comes across.
Agreed, I love the comment and am more enamored with Ehrlich's readings of films than most active professional critics. I think he is often misinterpreted as being vacuously flippant because of his brash means of expression. My stray thoughts on this connection are that, contrary to Jack, Fassbender(/i.e. modern man?) has been primed by a more consistent, accepted atmosphere of isolating consumerism producing ennui. So he's evolved from a state where that listlessness clashes with an angsty psychological part that 'remembers when' and craves that elastic identity (Jack's struggle in Fight Club), now replaced by an embrace of rigid, determined individualism as a defense mechanism. This contrasts with Jack's drive to feed that impulse to connect, back when it seemed possible -and accessible, before the technological walls went up barring in-person opportunities for intimacy- in the earlier stages of Gen X conditioning.

So, as Never Cursed diagnoses him as "more philosophically disturbed version of" (I imagine Durden), I think there's something there, but on a less 'literally'-disturbing level. Fassbender doesn't disturb his neighbors, he doesn't disrupt systems (at least not in a playful way that seems outwardly more threatening but less internally; for it's less prescriptive for long-term behavior, and less cynical for it. Those acting out are doing so for reasons under the psychological iceberg, as a reaction to something unrelated, and have more potential to shift behavior and allow this destruction to be a 'phase'). Fassbender follows them, ironically by adopting the antisocial cultural touchstones from the zeitgeist's overwhelming stimulation pushing persons towards mental breakdowns or apathy. So he falls in suit with society's self-serving "nihilistic" attitudes while simultaneously rejecting society. Instead of gaining pleasure on an anarchic level like Tyler Durden, he resists pleasure as a self-gratifying practice of coping to mirror an inability, or fear of attempting to locate pleasure amidst an alienating milieu. So is he "more philosophically disturbed" because he's lost his "Jack" persona, or because he's using "Durden" as a shield? Is it because, instead of having these two strong parts of him (from an IFS-therapy perspective, though "Jack" and "Tyler" were certainly extreme versions of those selves!) he has diluted Jack and Durden together into a compromised state of complacent passionless faux-nirvana? Is it because it's more realistic - reminiscent of some of the scarier personality disorders' rationales? Is it because, in fully accepting and internalizing this attitude for so long at such a comfortable simmer, the delusion is likely to be permanent, the skills lost or perhaps never developed at all? Jack at least had memories of a time when he was freer, and they were keys to self-actualize; just like I remember when I was a kid before computers and phones and had less obstructions to connection. Is Fassbender's lack of freedom a primer for the most horrifying vehicle posing as a relaxed commoner?

Is Fincher, a lover of technology himself, self-reflexively engaging with his own competing parts - both mourning a loss of impassioned 'self' from those earlier days of Fight Club, and scoffing at that self; prided as a treasurer of rules, technology, process, and also realizing and sobering to his complacent routine of older age, without being sure how to feel about it?

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#52 Post by zedz » Sun Nov 12, 2023 5:34 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2023 11:15 pm
Anyway, another joke I appreciated was Fassbender's preference for The Smiths, whose lyrics he has apparently never properly listened to. When Fassbender listens to How Soon Is Now, an on-the-nose choice for the scene, Fincher pulls us out of Fassbender's point of view and drops the music from the soundtrack juuuuust as the lyrics are about to comment on the situation. Every time. It's like you're Fassbender, always at the moment of getting the point and then just...not.
This is nicely observed. The Smiths as Geek Chorus. Another aspect of the music choice is that it emphasizes just how limited a person the main character is, in that he only ever listens to one band. In counterpoint to one of his foils later in the film, he simply doesn't have the imagination to enjoy the possibilities his lifestyle has bought him: his personality and experience is cramped and boxed in by self-imposed rules.

Fincher's Godardian treatment of the film's diegetic music - cutting out whenever we shift to an third-person perspective - is also a constant reminder that there are external positions available within the film, and that we should not be trapped inside Fassbender's head or accept his narration (which also interrupts the music) as accurate, reliable, or even a true reflection of what he is doing.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#53 Post by Walter Kurtz » Thu Nov 16, 2023 1:46 pm

I think The K__.ller can best be described as a slow-cinema version of a genre B-movie as if it were directed by Bela Tarr or Tsai Ming-liang. And I found it fascinating that someone showed the second-by-second drudgery of a supposedly 'exciting' profession.

Even the fight was fascinating in it's realness ... and the unreality of movie-fights always bore the hell out of me. I should know--

I was in a few dozen of them growing up and once fought a Golden Gloves champ to a draw in a gym class slap-fight in high school. We actually had to slap fight each other for three one-second rounds and he outweighed me by 25 pounds. The other two dozen were street-fights and the longest lasted about 12 minutes until we beat the shit out of each other so badly we couldn't lift our arms anymore. That was a draw too. I won the other 22 but you always remember the ones you didn't win because you can die if you lose.

Any fan of slow-cinema who criticizes the boredom of this film is guilty of hypocrisy.

It's 60's-Godardian in the sense of doing the opposite of what people expect. You want a whiz-bang action thriller about an assassin? I give you Bela Tarr instead!

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#54 Post by Persona » Fri Nov 17, 2023 12:07 am

I think maybe my third favorite Fincher, if a distant third to Zodiac and Se7en (and mind you I don't greatly love the rest, though I like most of them besides Benjamin Button).

The voice-over won me over in the end. Structurally and thematically an interesting film, even as it plays it lean and mean. Fantastic technical work all around, as to be expected. Possibly my favorite Reznor/Ross score. The climax underwhelmed at first, but I love how it unfolds into that denouement. It all kind of clicked for me with those final moments.

Perhaps the best film about the socioeconomic nihilism of the modern world since PARASITE.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#55 Post by Blip Martindale » Sat Nov 25, 2023 10:24 pm

I like Fincher's style in general, while conceding that he's really only made two or three films with consequential content, another couple very good genre diversions, and a few more that are fairly odious. I don't think he's ever made an irresponsible film, but maybe if he did make something completely unhinged, exploitative or subversive, or stylistically ragged, it would be his best or most interesting work.

I'm not sure yet where in that lineup I'd station The Killer. I tried to rewatch it about a week after my first viewing, and the initial thrill of its form gave way to annoyance and even disgust, and I couldn't finish. Will try again after time has passed. I watched Zodiac probably three times in its first week on video, and continue to watch it regularly, and even his films I know aren't edifying (Seven, The Game, Panic Room) I can watch at the drop of a hat.

But do we need more (or any?) films about assassins, hitmen, their ilk? Is there any profession so minute and specialized, so removed from everyday life, so noxious, yet so overrepresented in movies? I admit Le Samourai and Branded to Kill and The Conformist are among my favorite films, but fifty years later (and after how many hundreds of other such films, all less complex, less political, less stylish, less self-aware) I wonder what sickness the filmmakers and audience share that encourages such productions. This isn't a moral objection, per se; any subject or story can reflect larger or more personal concerns, and the arguments that this film's emptiness is the point are worth considering. And frankly, I like violent films (even empty ones,) they do something that can't be done in novels or music or other media. But how about at least an occasional film where a killing has a disturbing, reverberative meaning, like In The Bedroom?

I can't help but think the whole affair was just an excuse for Fincher to string together the "coolest" motorcycle chase in Paris, the "coolest" fight in a dark house, the "coolest" this or that... set pieces, I guess they're called. And it was thrilling to watch the expected command of form: Fincher's settled, inevitable but unfussy eye for composition and movement, his sickly but somehow comforting color preferences and restrained production design, and most of all the excellent editing, maybe the best of his career.

Something about the film reminded me of Brian Aldiss's term "cozy catastrophe," and while it doesn't meet the strict genre definitions usually applied, it had a similar affect on me - and perplexes me as well, since I was so unable to watch it through a second time as of yet. There's also the almost documentary pleasure of watching someone just doing simple things on screen: load a weapon, exercise, drive a car, purchase items online, take a shower. I could watch an entire film consisting of these vagaries (maybe I just did?) regardless of their context or import. I was reminded of the first third of Psycho here, also.

And like Psycho, once the plot is kick-started, I lose some interest as the conventions and derivatives are ladled on like gravy ( I understand Psycho's 2nd & 3rd acts were revolutionary, unlike The Killer.) A few too many scenes towards the end recalled Breaking Bad (the climactic meeting with Arliss Howard compares unfavorably to at least two such scenes in BB.) And some of the relationships are so poorly defined and unconvincing (The Killer's "girlfriend"[?]) that they completely fail as essential motivation or even simple duty.

It might be worth comparing this film to Cronenberg's History of Violence, as both are made by auteurs and both based on comics (I have not read the source material, and have heard nothing that encourages me to do so,) even though the tone and intentions of each is obviously different. I think the Cronenberg movie is one of his best. This one? It remains to be seen.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#56 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Nov 26, 2023 12:10 am

Blip Martindale wrote:I wonder what sickness the filmmakers and audience share that encourages such productions. This isn't a moral objection
I'm pretty sure that's a textbook example of a moral objection.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#57 Post by Blip Martindale » Sun Nov 26, 2023 12:49 am

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2023 12:10 am
Blip Martindale wrote:I wonder what sickness the filmmakers and audience share that encourages such productions. This isn't a moral objection
I'm pretty sure that's a textbook example of a moral objection.
Well I'll be damned, you're right

Of course I'm part of that audience too

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#58 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Nov 26, 2023 7:39 am

Fincher's been pretty open about basing his career on the idea that the audience is basically a pervert. So, there you go.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#59 Post by Blip Martindale » Sun Nov 26, 2023 8:06 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2023 7:39 am
Fincher's been pretty open about basing his career on the idea that the audience is basically a pervert. So, there you go.
Yes, but his films are resolutely middle of teh road. Nothing perverted at all about any of them. Seven? Every Hollywood serial killer cliche in the book. The Game? Three dozen paranoid conspiracy flicks from the 70s did better. And so on. No truly perverted film will find a large audience (a case could be made for Barbie) because contrary to what Fincher (or you) might think, the majority of his viewers are not "perverts." That's giving them too much credit, honestly.

As I say, his style is intriguing. And he doesn't try to sell himself as an outré mook like Marylin Manson, dressing in black, that sort of teenaged nonsense, or wear skinny jeans and hair like a twenty year old rock star, like AARP member Jim Jarmusch. He's clearly intelligent and a conscientious director with relatively broad interests within the crime genre. His outward normalcy more or less reflects this.

But neither he, nor his audience of ten-sometimes-hundreds-of millions,, nor me, nor you, are perverts. Not sure why you thought that was a point worth making. My questioning why there's a kind of larger illness involved with filmmaker's and the audiences' obsession with "assassins" isn't answered by a glib "So there you go."

When he makes a film like Last House on Dead End Street, or Martyrs, or Claire Denis' Bastards, which then makes a hundred million dollars, then I'll believe he's a pervert, and the audience too.

I don't know, maybe my "textbook example" of "pervert" is different than yours.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#60 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Nov 26, 2023 8:43 pm

Maybe calling the audience "perverts" is goading on his part (Fincher throws around a lot of strong, provocative language in interviews) but it's not a novel concept to suppose that the audience allows deviant desires to be actualized in the safe space of artistic mediums. Freud was quoted about fiction's role here in the essay for Picnic at Hanging Rock, which doesn't mean it's a pat truism, but it's not a profound, original perspective. Fincher's films are built with very pleasurable, economic form to tell stories that are rather sad and nightmarish.

The Game is a millionaire's nightmare, where yeah, he gets to go on a safe adventure (like we do as an audience) that eventually ends happily after all the chaos, but his 'game' is built around triggers for all his deepest traumas. Most of his movies actually follow this model - Panic Room is more or less the same deal. Fight Club pitches a romantic indulgence in utopian disengagement from society bringing problems when you're the a leader and push that bridge too far.. but it also reflexively shatters that romantic ideal when we find out our protagonist didn't get to fully participate in his own life most of the time - especially not for the fun, 'pleasurable' parts! - and the stuff we did see as 'life-shattering revelations', like the first fistfight, is really just a pathetic shot of him beating himself up. Zodiac is clinically-absorbing to an anticlimax, and cumulatively demonstrates the questionable value of a life of myopic obsession when we zoom out. The Social Network takes its Citizen Kane-tragedy of loneliness all the way to its one-upping final shot, but it's gripping and we feel the surrogate highs of riding that wave right with the players, until we sober up to the lasting, consuming, inescapable sadness pervading that loneliness when we break from narcissistic protection. While it may break the "perverted" label, Fincher entertains the deviance of the pride in fame-chasing, and the spiritual loss of values that comes with unchecked greed, but his fascination with the mentality of the delusioned dreamer is the closest he came to fully engaging with this idea with his audience until he layered it up and made it the sole focus of Mank - which I've written enough about, but craftily coerces his audience to join the titular lead to admit the pleasures that come with this kind of cinematic escape - even outside of movies, in our real lives - and the pains of having to be vulnerable when this is burst. His in-between adaptations more directly engage with the "perverted" idea -trashy material geared towards these kinds of pleasures actualized on the silver screen with sleek, digestible style- yet both still zoom out at the end to reveal deeper thematic discomforts if we look for 'em.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#61 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Nov 26, 2023 8:50 pm

Blip Martindale wrote:Not sure why you thought that was a point worth making. My questioning why there's a kind of larger illness involved with filmmaker's and the audiences' obsession with "assassins" isn't answered by a glib "So there you go."
Because based on your previous comment, it seemed like you and him agreed on something. But given how often you contradict yourself or make a statement only to reverse or discard it, I'm going to guess that you don't have a coherent opinion, position, or even question, and are just typing whatever happens to come into your head while at the keyboard.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#62 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Nov 26, 2023 9:07 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2023 8:43 pm
Maybe calling the audience "perverts" is goading on his part (Fincher throws around a lot of strong, provocative language in interviews) but it's not a novel concept to suppose that the audience allows deviant desires to be actualized in the safe space of artistic mediums. Freud was quoted about fiction's role here in the essay for Picnic at Hanging Rock, which doesn't mean it's a pat truism, but it's not a profound, original perspective. Fincher's films are built with very pleasurable, economic form to tell stories that are rather sad and nightmarish.

The Game is a millionaire's nightmare, where yeah, he gets to go on a safe adventure (like we do as an audience) that eventually ends happily after all the chaos, but his 'game' is built around triggers for all his deepest traumas. Most of his movies actually follow this model - Panic Room is more or less the same deal. Fight Club pitches a romantic indulgence in utopian disengagement from society bringing problems when you're the a leader and push that bridge too far.. but it also reflexively shatters that romantic ideal when we find out our protagonist didn't get to fully participate in his own life most of the time - especially not for the fun, 'pleasurable' parts! - and the stuff we did see as 'life-shattering revelations', like the first fistfight, is really just a pathetic shot of him beating himself up. Zodiac is clinically-absorbing to an anticlimax, and cumulatively demonstrates the questionable value of a life of myopic obsession when we zoom out. The Social Network takes its Citizen Kane-tragedy of loneliness all the way to its one-upping final shot, but it's gripping and we feel the surrogate highs of riding that wave right with the players, until we sober up to the lasting, consuming, inescapable sadness pervading that loneliness when we break from narcissistic protection. While it may break the "perverted" label, Fincher entertains the deviance of the pride in fame-chasing, and the spiritual loss of values that comes with unchecked greed, but his fascination with the mentality of the delusioned dreamer is the closest he came to fully engaging with this idea with his audience until he layered it up and made it the sole focus of Mank - which I've written enough about, but craftily coerces his audience to join the titular lead to admit the pleasures that come with this kind of cinematic escape - even outside of movies, in our real lives - and the pains of having to be vulnerable when this is burst. His in-between adaptations more directly engage with the "perverted" idea -trashy material geared towards these kinds of pleasures actualized on the silver screen with sleek, digestible style- yet both still zoom out at the end to reveal deeper thematic discomforts if we look for 'em.
I mean, The Game is essentially about how moviegoers will gladly submit to an experience that's traumatic and scarring, and yet come out of it feeling refreshed and grateful despite everything that's just happened. I think Fincher was being honest when he called the audience a pervert. Like the Michael Douglas character, we ought to be upset by what we've been put through, and yet we're not. We keep coming back for it, hence Fincher has been able to make violent, confrontational thrillers for decades now and gained nothing but praise and success.

Anyway, I view the popularity of hitmen in media like I do the popularity of violent revenge tragedies in the English renaissance (the most popular and successful writer of them being William Shakespeare). The extremes of human emotion and behaviour are intrinsically fascinating, and you'll find no sickness in that beyond the sickness of being human. And if you want to think there's something uniquely troubling about modern media, just remember that attending a drawing and quartering used to be public entertainment.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#63 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Nov 26, 2023 9:28 pm

I agree with you, though I think what often makes the extremes of human behavior fascinating is our relationship to them. I don’t think people who enjoy on-screen violence are enjoying the action because they have violent impulses being realised by a surrogate, but because everyone has a relationship to experiencing emotional dysregulation and responding to it, and the extreme examples often reflect an uninhibited ‘part’ of someone that is divorced from ‘self’ but that’s recognized on some level (even if it’s an opposing tendency to what’s shown). And I think part of why Fincher can play multiple sides of this idea with his work is that he feels a kinship with mass audiences, or “in touch with his inner ‘perversion’” so it’s not like a condescending Haneke situation

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#64 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Nov 27, 2023 7:52 pm

Fincher certainly has no desire to kink shame. Haneke's various hypocrisies read less like the side effects of the out of touch moralist than the embarrassment of the would-be artiste who wants to indulge in a low desire to entertain but doesn't want to lose their art house credibility in the process. So they make a full on exploitation thriller, but then try to make everyone feel bad for enjoying it as intended. Fincher, like Hitchcock and de Palma, is an honest pervert: he wants to push you, confront you, titillate you, manipulate you, and wear on your nerves; but he genuinely wants you to enjoy the experience. He has no contempt for the manipulations of entertainment and the film going public on whom it works. He revels in the skill it takes to thrill people with dark, disturbing, even horrifying material, and in the process has gotten the critical and filmgoing world to take him seriously as an artist. The Game is a much more successful, clear-eyed, and intelligent take on the subject than Funny Games. I wish more people had said so when the latter came out.

I liked your comments on our fascination with violence and extreme behaviour being more about our emotional relationship to them than a genuine ugly desire that's being redirected, as if deep down we were all slavering psychos just looking for a socially acceptable way to vent our own darkness. There's something so...I don't know, Freudian about that idea. I've had this kind of conversation a number of times in the past. I find discussions of our relationship to media violence to be layered with bromides and received thinking, and that even in self-consciously intellectual attempts to discuss the issue you'll find moralisms and moralistic disapproval creeping in. It's latent in all the conventional phrases we use and the conventional ideas we bring up. So often a basic distinction goes unmade: that the desire to witness violence or ugliness is distinct from a desire to participate in it. A lot of people, on instinct, seem to feel that a morbid compulsion inevitably pushes us from the one into the other, hence all the claims that violent media will breed violent behaviour. And yet it's our garden variety bigotries and prejudices that most often incite violence, our unexamined tribalisms and the righteousness that goes with them. You could argue, I guess, that a willingness to confront ugliness clearly and head on is healthier than avoiding it, but I think that falls into the same moralistic trap. I don't think movies or other media have much to do with our moral or spiritual health, except where this or that artist or movement wants to reflect it. You can't use movies or literature or painting as a thermometer to gauge a culture's health, and the societies that try to do that are generally full of their own ugly tendencies. There was a lot that was ugly and misshapen about Tudor England and the Weimar Republic, but I'm not about to claim the problem was revenge tragedies and expressionism.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#65 Post by Blip Martindale » Tue Nov 28, 2023 7:09 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2023 8:50 pm
Blip Martindale wrote:Not sure why you thought that was a point worth making. My questioning why there's a kind of larger illness involved with filmmaker's and the audiences' obsession with "assassins" isn't answered by a glib "So there you go."
Because based on your previous comment, it seemed like you and him agreed on something. But given how often you contradict yourself or make a statement only to reverse or discard it, I'm going to guess that you don't have a coherent opinion, position, or even question, and are just typing whatever happens to come into your head while at the keyboard.
Damn! I wasn't aware posting requirements included a precis, footnotes, and peer review. I thought message boards were actually just people "typing whatever happens to come into their head while at the keyboard," and honestly i find inherent contradictions interesting, which is partly what I was trying to comprehend in the film we're discussing. But I'm so sorry, next time I'll be sure to reach into my pocket and pull out some Freud or my clinical boner fides before I contribute. I have been warned.

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#66 Post by swo17 » Tue Nov 28, 2023 7:20 pm

^ sung in a Morrissey voice

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#67 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Nov 28, 2023 8:01 pm

"Inherent contradictions" are interesting, as organic conflicts of an idea. They are, however, fundamentally different from -and indefensible against a charge of- contradicting oneself

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Re: The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)

#68 Post by Walter Kurtz » Wed Nov 29, 2023 3:00 am

Blip Martindale wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2023 7:09 pm
...next time I'll be sure to reach into my pocket and pull out some... boner fides...
I gotta tell you... in fourth grade I hated it when the teacher would call on us and we each had to go up in front of the class and recite something and half the time i had some boner fides I needed to disappear like right NOW.

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