Zodiac

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Zodiac

Postby howardschumann(d) » Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:28 pm

ZODIAC
Directed by David Fincher (2007), 158 minutes

Beginning in 1969 and continuing into the 70s, San Francisco papers were filled with stories about a mysterious serial killer who called himself the Zodiac. Taunting the police to discover his identity - letters, ciphers, puzzles, and clues filled the newspapers until the story became a daily media event. Based on two books, Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked by Robert Graysmith, a former editorial cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and on actual case files researched by the director, David Finchers Zodiac dramatizes the search for the identity of the killer, focusing more on the lives of the reporters and police officers who investigate the case than on the killings and their victims. The case has never been solved and no arrests have ever been made, in spite of there being 2500 suspects including one very plausible possibility discussed in the film.

Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Graysmith, an amateur detective who becomes interested in the case while working for the Chronicle. Though the killings stopped long ago, Graysmith continued to pursue leads long after the official investigation ceased. The world first heard about the Zodiac after two young people, Darlene Ferrin (Clara Hughes) and her friend Mike Mageau (Lee Norris) were shot in their parked car. Darlene was killed but Mike survived but was not asked to identify a suspect until many years later. Three weeks after the killing, a letter is received by the Chronicle that claims responsibility for the murder and an additional killing eight months prior.

Calling himself the Zodiac, the letter includes a coded message that the killer claims will reveal his identity if decoded. The letter also says that unless the paper continues to print his letters, the killings will continue. Though his name is never revealed, the code is discovered by amateur sleuths to point to a 1932 film, The Most Dangerous Game, in which a killer enjoys hunting down and killing human victims. The Chronicle assigns their top crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) to cover the case. When cab driver Paul Stine is killed in San Francisco, two homicide detectives Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and his partner William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) become involved and the focus of the film shifts to the police investigation.

Fincher, like an episode of Dragnet, gives us just the facts and lets us draw our own conclusions while describing conversations, procedures, interviews, and searches of public and private records in minute detail. As the Zodiac keeps upping the ante, he holds the media hostage, threatening to attack a school bus filled with children if the paper does not cooperate in feeding his desire for publicity. Soon the Zodiac demands that Melvin Belli (Brian Cox), a popular Bay Area attorney, talk to him on television and when the program takes place, there is some reference to the killers headaches but little comes of the conversation. Meanwhile Fincher details the growing strains that the investigation takes on the police and the reporters.

Avery is taken off the case. Armstrong requests a transfer so that he can spend more time with his family, and Graysmith, who begins to investigate the case on his own, becomes so obsessed with finding the killer that his marriage to his wife Melanie (Chloe Sevigny) is put in jeopardy. Zodiac is an intelligent and involving film that holds our attention for the 158 minute running time but, perhaps because of the nature of the case, it is without key dramatic moments or even an overriding point of view, and is underplayed to the point that it doesnt fully convey the sense of fear and paranoia that gripped the Bay Area during that period. Yet Zodiac is as completely fascinating as All The Presidents Men in its roller coaster ride through tips, secret meetings, false leads, and hopes raised and then dashed. One only wishes that there could have been a Deep Throat to point investigators in the right direction.

GRADE: B+
howardschumann(d)
 


Re: Zodiac

Postby wpqx » Sat Dec 22, 2007 12:15 am

I'm simultaneously surprised it took me this long to see the film, and amazed that no one else has commented on this thread. Few films I've ever seen are so engrossing. This film pulls you in and keeps you there for the whole show. Fincher has turned down his theatrics in favor of a much more compact style. This certainly was one of the best films I've seen of 2007, hope to get more on the subject later.
wpqx
 

Re: Zodiac

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Dec 22, 2007 6:13 am

Most of the previous comments on the film were in the David Fincher thread. And I'm sure you recall that I felt the same way about Zodiac. The 2-Dics Special Edition, which features the Director's Cut, comes out on January 8.
arsaib4
 

Re: Zodiac

Postby wpqx » Sat Dec 22, 2007 11:00 pm

I figured there'd be an extras laden edition eventually. Just glad I finally got around to watching it.
wpqx
 

Re: Zodiac

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 2:34 am

"The players in this business dont view this as being just about making money and getting a table at the Golden Globes. For everyone who truly cares, I think, theres a desire to be culturally important on some level. Its not like anybody involved with Zodiac went in saying, Dont you get it? Theres going to be 180,000 close-ups of different parts of this file. People are going to flock to it! Everybody knew what the issues were going to be, and in spite of that, they wanted to make the movie. The goal here was to make an interesting movie, and I do think that movies are... five years from now is more important than five months from now, in my humble opinion. Ill trade the opening weekend for a movie that can stand scrutiny five or ten years down the road" (David Fincher).

Foundas with Fincher (LA Weekly).
arsaib4
 

Re: Zodiac

Postby R6dw6C » Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:08 am

Thanks for posting this link, arsaib. I sympathize a lot with some of Fincher's statements (didn't know that he got his fingers on the Screenplay that way - it often is a bit curious if a director isn't interested to write something himself) but I'm also still of the opinion that "Zodiac" is the only really outstanding work he delivered so far. It'll depend on his next film if I'll be ready to reconsider him as somebody else than one of Hollywood's wunderkinds of the 90ies which happened to make one exceptional film. It's not that I disliked "Se7en" or "Fight Club" (it is true with "Panic Room" though) but while watching "Zodiac" in the cinema (awfully dubbed, thanks to Warner) I thought "Wow, is this really a David Fincher Film? Has he really grown up?". Anyway, it's great that so many cineasted appreciate it after it bombed at the boxoffice (afaik).
R6dw6C
 

Re: Zodiac

Postby wpqx » Tue Jan 15, 2008 5:41 am

I didn't really know it bombed at the box office considering the people I know who saw it. I think that the reputation of Fincher's Se7en and Fight Club he does have a tendency to make memorable films that hold up a few years down the line.
wpqx
 

Re: Zodiac

Postby R6dw6C » Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:08 pm

Well, that's just what I heard and read about it and what was around some months ago. If it didn't bomb - Great! I'd love to see more films like this one in today's Mainstream Cinema, films that don't care about the expectations of the big crowds.
Hopefully, Fincher won't return to old "form" with his next project - a budget of 150 000 000 always awakes bits of distrust.
R6dw6C
 

Re: Zodiac

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:42 am



By most accounts, Zodiac's budget was around $70 million (Fincher delivered the film for less than what he asked for and received). Domestically, the film made about $33 million. I'm not sure what qualifies as a bomb, but it was certainly a flop. Having said that, the film has made just about as much since appearing on home video. And it has garnered nearly $52 million outside of U.S. Of course, one also has to take in account the marketing and print costs that in most cases add up to more than the actual budget, but as the auteur stated, it's not always about the money!
arsaib4
 


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