February 28, 2007


Zodiac "A brilliantly sustained aria of obsession and failure, Zodiac is an absurdly entertaining, two-and-a-half-hour, $75 million shriek of alpha-male OCD impotence," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly.

"[T]hrilling to behold" is probably the money quote from the LA Weekly's Scott Foundas, but of course, the read's far richer than poster graffiti: "Zodiac is the sort of vast, richly involving pop epic that Hollywood largely seems incapable of making anymore, so it's little surprise that [David] Fincher's influences derive from an earlier era of American film.... Fincher is transporting us back to the New American Cinema of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and specifically to the pared-down, fact-based procedurals of filmmakers like Alan J Pakula and Sidney Lumet.... [T]he surprise isn't that Fincher pulls it off, but rather that the form of the film - a triumph of period lighting, costumes and production design - is exhilaratingly of a piece with its content. In Zodiac, every fluorescent-lit medium close-up, every corduroy jacket and every shade of goldenrod or taupe has the effect of pulling you deeper into the movie's narrative thicket."

Updated through 3/5.

"But, man, get ready to hum tunelessly along to someone else's obsession, with a lot of racing through libraries, working the phones, abstruse speculation, the inevitable comparison being All the President's Men but even more resistant to suspense," warns Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine.

"Zodiac touches on a mystery less dramatic than the average serial-killer movie but more disturbing - how time passes while we try to make sense of past time," writes Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix.

"David Fincher, the brainless Kubrick, perpetrates another foul pop landmark with Zodiac." Armond White in the New York Press.

Related: Rachel Abramowitz gets James Ellroy and Fincher talking about unsolved crimes in the Los Angeles Times.

Susan Gerhard: "Internet journalist Michael Guillén (The Evening Class and SF360.org's latest intern) researched few bases to touch on your search for ever more Zodiac and ever more San Francisco." Linkage follows.

ST VanAirsdale chats with star Mark Ruffalo.

Earlier: David Ansen (Newsweek), David Edelstein (New York) and Nathan Lee (Voice).

Updates, 3/1: "When are we going to stop using the DVD as the dumping ground for the 'real' movie?" asks DK Holm at ScreenGrab.

Jerry Lentz posts a photo of himself "with the guy Jake Gyllenhaal plays, Robert Graysmith author of Zodiac."

"At 2½ hours, the film is also too long in the telling and too short on suspense," writes the Austin Chronicle's Marjorie Baumgarten. "Without due process or a culprit to wrap up the story line, Zodiac needs a more solid center on which to hang its story."

Peter Keough talks with Graysmith for the Boston Phoenix.

Updates, 3/2: "Set when the Age of Aquarius disappeared into the black hole of the Manson family murders, the film is at once sprawling and tightly constructed, opaque and meticulously detailed," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "It's part police procedural, part monster movie, a funereal entertainment that is an unexpected repudiation of Mr Fincher's most famous movie, the serial-killer fiction Seven, as well as a testament to this cinematic savant's gifts."

James Hughes at Stop Smiling: "Though not entirely a procedural (in the spirit of Alan Pakula's All the President's Men) or a deliberate attempt to seek justice through celluloid (Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line), the film unfortunately falls into a somewhat awkward crevice between the two - a struggle of popcorn vs police tape."

"Several trademark bravura sequences compress and overlay all the words, talk and conjecture with the slickness and momentum we expect, and the film jumps ahead by hours, then weeks, then months and years," writes Michelle Orange at the Reeler. "Yet at over two-and-a-half hours of dead-ends and bedevilment, there doesn't seem to be enough intrigue or, alternately, involvement with the characters to justify the empirical extents Fincher is intent on mapping."

"[W]ay, way too much of the film is guys sitting in a room talking about it over and over and over, waiting for a climax that never comes," grumbles Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post, where Ellen McCarthy profiles Chloë Sevigny.

"The two best serial killer films of the past decade, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 1997 Cure and Bong Joon-ho's 2003 Memories of Murder, suggest that their characters' flaws are symptoms of an entire society's failures," notes Steve Erickson at Gay City News. "Zodiac is content merely to document a pathology affecting a few investigators.... All the same, the film's accomplishments, especially the way screenwriter James Vanderbilt turned a non-fiction book into a compelling fictional narrative, are undeniable, even if its 165-minute length feels excessive."

"There are really two movies going on, the more pro forma detective story focusing on the police and a slightly goofy yarn involving the journalists," writes Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times.

For the Stranger's Andrew Wright, Zodiac is Fincher's "most impressive monolith to date, a sprawling, three-decade-spanning infodump that, for all its virtuosity, occasionally feels like being locked in the file cabinet of a conspiracy junkie."

The LA CityBeat's Andy Klein finds the film "a completely engrossing 'true' crime saga that holds our attention consistently for more than two and a half hours."

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek describes two gruesome scenes of the killer at work, and then: "If Fincher were merely going for sensationalism, you could at least chalk his tactics up to honest sleaze. But Fincher wants sensationalism and class, too, seemingly unaware that you can't have both. And through the rest of Zodiac, Fincher amasses details with so much zeal that he barely bothers to stop to notice their significance, or lack thereof."

Updates, 3/3: "I wish I could be more positive about Zodiac," sighs David Poland. "I will say this. On a second viewing, what seemed like a bit of a relentless dirge into nothingness did appear to have a more clear three act structure."

"To undertake a thriller of this length and scope with no prospect of a morally satisfying resolution, Fincher must have been a little nuts himself," suggests Slate's Dana Stevens. "We'll see whether audiences used to the tidy one-hour cases on CSI and Law & Order will follow him down Zodiac's murky, twisted, and ultimately dead-end street. It may not sound like it from that description, but it's a hell of a ride."

Online viewing tips. Jason Kottke points to Dave and Thomas's collection of six Fincher-directed commercials, six music videos and clips from six movies.

"[A]s this sprawling opus unfolds, what emerges isn't simply a routine detective story but something far more masterful, and haunting: a two-and-a-half hour portrait of obsession run amok, and of the multifaceted influence of the media - and the cinema - on society," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "Fincher's film astutely and persuasively intimates that his utilization of - and history of having been influenced by - the media and cinema also make him a distinctly modern serial killer."

"Like Jack the Ripper, [Zodiac's] obsession with becoming a criminal celebrity should make him an easy catch," notes Jeffrey Overstreet in Christianity Today. "What makes him scary is his ghostlike ability to remain untouchable and enigmatic."

"Now, as a Zodiac 'buff' (for lack of a better word) since way the hell back in 1981, five years before the publication of Graysmith's first book, when I actually traveled by train from San Jose to San Francisco (at age 13) to talk the SFPD into letting me examine their case file for a phony school project, I'm not the most objective audience member imaginable for this particular motion picture," admits Mike D'Angelo. "Nonetheless, I want to expand a bit on the last paragraph of my review [for the Las Vegas Weekly], because it puzzles me that nobody else seems to be bothered by the film's deeply misguided final scene, which to my mind all but negates everything that precedes it. Remove this one brief scene and I might concur with the widespread opinion of Zodiac as a modern masterpiece."

Kim Voynar interviews Graysmith for Cinematical; her review. And James Rocchi's.

"For all its dramatic flaws, Zodiac deserves praise for not choosing the easy route," writes the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle. "[I]ts virtues, like its failings, are those of authenticity. It offers neither the illusion of a complete resolution, nor - and this is a big problem - the structural organization that comes from a storyteller's knowing how it all ends, what it all means and what needs to be shown."

For Jim Tudor, writing at Twitch, Zodiac "may be the biggest, longest Hollywood snooze-fest since the theatrical run of Oliver Stone's Alexander."

For the IFC Blog's Alison Willmore, Zodiac is "a film that's more interesting to write about than it is to watch. The real world may well fail to cohere to a convenient narrative; seeing this demonstrated on screen is, as you'd guess, unsatisfying."

"Of all of Fincher's films, this one has the lowest re-watchability factor," agrees Zoom In Online's Annie Frisbie.

Updates, 3/4: "Zodiac stands to Se7en very much the way Inland Empire stands to Mulholland Drive," writes Larry Gross at Movie City News. "It's auto-critique. It takes an artist's admirable if relatively conventional accomplishment and smashes it deliberately into several oddly shaped but ultimately connected pieces."

Jeff GP at the Six-Reel Shuffle: "Just after last years mega-million dollar art project, Miami Vice, Zodiac sits as one of the most beautiful and digitally shot pictures ever made.... David Fincher pulled out marvelous, marvelous performances and told a whammy of a fun tale, but [cinematographer] Harris Savides is the great big muddy star of Zodiac."

Update, 3/5: "The Zodiac killings are like the VUE in Greenaway's The Falls or the V-2 attacks in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow: a mysterious, violent episode from which an infinite and infinitely weird collection of contradictory facts radiates, while hapless human beings make increasingly desperate attemps to catalogue, classify and understand," writes Joe Armenio. Zodiac itself is "the sort of film that JFK would have been if it had been directed by that dude from the bookstore in Richard Linklater's Slacker: a rambling, earnest discourse that you find mildly endearing even as you're planning your escape."

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Posted by dwhudson at February 28, 2007 2:25 PM