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Streaming Selections: Zodiac

written by rick June 2, 2017
Streaming Selections: Zodiac

David Fincher is a director I know I am supposed to admire — his fans will be happy to make this crystal clear for you, if you have anything approaching a misgiving — but whose films frequently leave me cold. Zodiac is the exception that proves the rule.

An actual procedural masterpiece — with creeptastic setpieces right out of the gate, solid performances down the line, and some gorgeously unsettling cinematography courtesy of Harris Savides — Fincher’s period-specific take on the Zodiac killings pulls off a series of neat tricks.

Chief among them? It’s a mystery that presents itself as unsolvable, and devours its investigators. That’s much creepier than any third-act reveals from your Kevin Spaceys, Edward Nortons, or Rosamund Pikes.

Zodiac Trojan Horses us into a hunt for a serial killer, but its heart lies elsewhere. As SF Chronicle employees, crime-beat reporter Robert Downey Jr. and increasingly unhinged puzzlemaster/cartoonist Jake Gyllenhaal serve as our compass, morally as much as narratively. Fincher lures the audience into a trap: the heyday of madmen writing confessionals to the newspaper positions us to expect thriller-worthy resolution.

As in real life, it’s not forthcoming, which is both maddening and entirely more profound than its alternative.

Savides’ moody camera catches jittery, in-between images — doomed lovers at a make-out parking spot in the Northern California hills, the boxy news office scored to blaring telephones, the light playing off the desolate rain next to phonebooths.

As we, like Zodiac‘s protagonists, become more engrossed in the grisly story and the killer’s self-aggrandizing passions, it becomes abundantly clear that we’re outmatched. The hunt itself will punish the inquisitors, and play out in a press that can’t realize its being played.

That’s horrifying.

(Streaming on Netflix)

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Full Metal Jacket

Even for an auteurist with no shortage of detractors, Stanley Kubrick’s hyper-masculinist Vietnam freakout proved divisive. Its structure — essentially, cleaved in two, with the first half an immersive bootcamp horror and its second something much stranger — doesn’t allow for easy answers.

In fact, it probably invites an argument, with Kubrick setting up referents like dominoes and than walking away, figuratively speaking. But we still haven’t finished talking about it.

(Streaming on Netflix)

Regarding Henry

Real talk: I am including this entry entirely because my girlfriend once referred to it as “Dirty Henry”, and now that’s what I call it. Harrison Ford stars as Dirty Henry.

(Streaming on Amazon Prime)

Shivers

If Stereo and Transfer were initial plunges into David Cronenberg’s gestating sensibility, Shivers was the announcement that he’d arrived. I’ll have much more to say on this soon, but for now, here are some words: Sex Zombies; new age apartment building; poolside sacrifices; stomach worms that look like pieces of poop; extreme perversion.

In other words, just another day in the White House! Ha ha! Zing.

Anyways, this is an excellent film.

(Streaming on Amazon Prime)

Je, Tu, Il, Elle

Rather incredibly, the IMDB description of Chantal Akerman’s greatest film reads:

‘Je’ is a girl voluntarily lock up in a room. ‘Tu’ is the script. ‘Il’ is a lorry driver. ‘Elle’ is the girlfriend.

I guess?

Akerman’s camera captures bodies in isolation and together, and that quote’s sort of breathless, slightly goofy narrativizing is pushed far back in the frame. Instead, we simply watch a woman hang around her apartment, eat sugar, and get laid. The film is both intimate and distant, with some kind of alienation coursing through it alongside the desire.

If you’ve never seen an Akerman film, this is the best place to start.

(Streaming on YouTube)

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