Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fight Club 10 Year On

Though Fight Club’s actual Tenth anniversary was a couple months ago, all the cool kids are writing about it now. And what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t write about what’s arguably the film of my generation.

Because make no mistake Fight Club is probably the closet thing to a cultural touchstone my generation has. The one piece of art that everyone has seen and has an opinion about. It’s ten years old this week, which quite frankly makes me feel like The Crypt Keeper, and people are still debating whether it’s a fascist piece of crap of a true masterpiece.

However, just because a film captures the cultural zeitgeist, doesn’t mean it’s any good. Just look at Easy Rider (Digression!!! Its worth noting that Fight Club takes the exact opposite trajectory of Rider. While Easy Rider spent its run time in a cloud of Hippie idealism to crash into nihilism at the end. Fight Club spends the majority of its run time in a venerable swan dive of nihlism only to pull out at the last second boosted by a wave of, I think exhilarating, romantism.) Fight Club, I’m happy to report, holds up. Its still the same incendiary power that it always had. In case you have literally been a space monkey for the past ten years, Fight Club tells the story of “Jack” a white collar wage slave whose quietly gone insane. He meets Tyler Durden, a soap salesman, and without either really meaning too they start Fight Club, an organization that allows similarly soul dead corporate drones to beat the ever living crap out of each other. The project becomes all too successful, gaining a life of it’s own and morphing into Project Mayhem, dedicated to destroying society, with an idea that might actually do the trick.

The main criticism about Fight Club is that it glamorizes thuggish nihilistic violence. And to a certain extent, of course it does. Brad Pitt is a fucking rock star in this thing, he’s fully convincing as a man who as he puts it, “ Looks like you wanna look, fucks like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.” It helps that he’s shot by David Fincher. The film still is stylistically on the bleeding edge ten years on. Particularly the manic first act which puts you so thoroughly in Fincher’s universe, bolstered by Norton’s droning monologue that its still disorienting on the umpteenth rewatching. The stuff Fincher pulls off here still seems genuinely next level, though whether that’s due to Fincher’s genius or the paucity in American cinema is up for debate.

But Fight Club was always deeper then it’s critics, hell it’s fans too, ever gave it credit for. As attractive as Pitt and Fincher make the surface look it is just that, the surface. Fight Club at it’s core is about the danger of giving yourself over to ANY school of thought, any ism. Whether it’s the white collar hell it’s principles inhabit in the beginning, or the counter culture they create, and are almost destroyed by. Any organization that you allow to view you as a cog in a greater whole will invariably treat you as such. And Cogs are very replaceable. Still those who talk about the film's supposed misogyny and machoism should remember that the ending can only come when Norton grows the fuck up enough to be able to reach out to a woman.

While other films that shocked at the time, such as Clockwork Orange, or Easy Rider, have grandfathered their way into the canon, Fight Club still maintains it’s edgy outsider status. I don't even think its Fincher's greatest film (but we'll get to that in my massive decade ender) but for sheer cinematic exhilaration its tough to beat. It still feels genuinely dangerous, like a hand grenade thrown into a bassinet.

When those buildings came down to The Pixie's coo it felt as though we where living in a new world. Two years later would confirm how right we where. The past eight years have been a "very strange time" in everyones life. And for the kids who came of age in its shadow, it'll always loom.

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