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My top 250 can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/list/-AN_9vbOvv0/
Of course, Fincher started out in the music video business, so it felt necessary to me to watch a number of those videos. I watched his first ones as well as the 15 or so best ones on lists I found. Since most of his videos are not on IMDB and it is a bit difficult to rank them, I give short reviews here:
1984 - "Dance This World Away", Rick Springfield (1984) 4,5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 4/10) Very 80s. Don't like the music. Music video is not devoid of ideas, but looks way too 80s dated and is a bit stupid. Rick Springfield looks and acts stupid.
1984 - "Bop Til You Drop", Rick Springfield (1984) 4,5/10 (Video: 4/10, Music: 5/10) It's fun to see Fincher's style here already, with the yellowish tints and rough looking set. But there's also some terrible effects and creature costumes, and more stupid Rick Springfield close-ups.
1985 - "Shame", The Motels (1985) 4,5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 4/10) There's some decent video work and a noirish vibe, although it contains some very cliché 80s tricks like light and shadow through window blinds, wind fans and it has an overall dated 80s vibe.
1985 - "Shock", The Motels (1985) 4,5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 4/10) This shows how important the marriage of music and image are. I imagine this nightmarish video (with some neat tricks, but also cheap 80s effects) would have felt much different if it were accompanied by dark music instead of bad glossified pop.
1985 - "Celebrate Youth", Rick Springfield (1985) 5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 5/10) Black-and-white with a few colours. A little bit more stylistic than the first Rick Springfield videos, but marred by an 80's look too.
1986 - "All The Love In The World", The Outfield (1986) 4,5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 4/10) The dreamy shots of the dreamy girl are nice and atmospheric. But the band singing is boring to watch.
1986 - "Everytime You Cry", The Outfield (1986) 5,5/10 (Video: 6/10, Music: 5/10) Sure, I could do without the 80s effects at the end, but the concert footage was shot in a nice way, better than usually seen.
1986 - "One Simple Thing", Stabilizers (1986) 4,5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 4/10) Uninteresting black-and-white video
1988 - "Englishman in New York", Sting (1988) 7-/10 (Video: 6/10, Music: 7,5/10) Inoffensive, decent video, but uninteresting too. Classic song though.
1989 - "Straight Up", Paula Abdul (1989) 6/10 (Video: 7/10, Music: 5/10) Video is expressive enough to stand out with the black, white contrasts.
1989 - "Most of All", Jody Watley (1989) 5,5/10 (Video: 7/10, Music: 4/10) Fincher's making stylish music videos now, nice black and white, classy. Shame about the wannabe-Madonna-song though.
1989 - "She's a Mystery to Me", Roy Orbison (1989) 6/10 (Video: 6/10, Music: 6/10) Not particularly outstanding.
1989 - "Express Yourself", Madonna (1989) 7/10 (Video: 7/10, Music: 7/10) Although there's some dated things, it is an exciting video that does exactly what it should do and it succeeds in putting Madonna on screen as a powerful woman. It's a very sexy video. Madonna commands the screen. The references to Fritz Lang and Metropolis are a nice touch.
1989 - "The End of the Innocence", Don Henley (1989) 6/10 (Video: 6/10, Music: 6/10) Competent, but not that interesting
1989 - "Cold Hearted", Paula Abdul (1989) 5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 5/10) Uninteresting dance routine video. Paula Abdul looks a bit trashy here.
1989 - "Oh Father", Madonna (1989) 6/10 (Video: 7/10, Music: 5/10) I don't particularly like this song, but this is a rare case where the video really enhances the song and brings out the subject of the song's story better, giving it a emotional charge. Stylish black-and-white again.
1989 - "Janie's Got a Gun", Aerosmith (1989) 4,5/10 (Video: 5/10, Music: 4/10) This might contain crime scene type footage that foreshadows Fincher's later work, but it looks cheap to me. Worse is the ugly footage of Aerosmith, symbolising everything that was wrong about the 80s.
1990 - "Vogue", Madonna (1990) 8/10 (Video: 8/10, Music: 8/10) Iconic song and accompanying video, totally fitting each other. I can totally imagine how this song was revolutionary for many people when it was released. Even today, it feels very modern and timeless. The video is very stylish. Furthermore, it is also very tightly and beautifully edited, which is rare for music videos.
1990 - "Cradle of Love", Billy Idol (1990) 5/10 (Video 5/10, Music: 5/10) A bit creepy, in the wrong way. Billy Idol looks a child molestor in this video...
1990 - "Freedom '90", George Michael (1990) 6+/10 (Video: 7,5/10, Music: 5/10) A video that makes a song that I normally wouldn't really like quite a bit better. This video brings out the hotness and fun of the song. Great idea to just put a number of super models in a video and have them sing the song. The execution is very good too: it's a hot video and it's beautifully edited too.
1992 - "Who Is It?", Michael Jackson (1992) 6+/10 (Video: 6,5/10, Music: 6+/10) Although it doesn't stand out to me as a video I really enjoy, it is clear a first-class director is directing this.
1993 - "Bad Girl", Madonna (1993) 6/10 (Video: 7/10, Music: 5/10) Pretty neat clip, stylish, high production values. And Christopher Walken.
1994 - "Love Is Strong", The Rolling Stones (1994) 6/10 (Video: 6,5/10, Music: 5,5/10) Cool idea, good video. But I don't like watching Mick Jagger overdoing his singing act.
1996 - "6th Avenue Heartache", The Wallflowers (1996) 6/10 (Video: 6/10, Music: 6/10) Sort of stop-motion photo thing, ok.
2000 - "Judith", A Perfect Circle (2000) 6/10 (Video: 6/10, Music: 6/10) This isn't necessarily bad, but it's just typical Fincher gritty effects over a grainy video, similar to the Se7en credits.
Ranked from high to low.
Gone Girl (2014)
Twisted tale about what's happening beneath the surface
With Gone Girl, I think Fincher has created his most thought-provoking work yet. It certainly created a buzz, with most people who walked out after the movie heavily discussing what had all happened. It's a movie that stays with me too and leaves me pondering too, even prompting me to see it twice.
The thing is that this movie works wonderfully well on a level below the narrative level. The narrative, the twisted tale of the girl gone missing, is entertaining well on its own, with some cool twists in the story. But what makes it far more interesting is that this plot is also just a device to bare the world beneath it. The plot is in a way ridiculous, but its masquerading for the strange mechanisms of couple synergy that this movie is really about. The movie works hard to tell what's happening under the surface: the superficial sheen a couple portrays to the outside world, the ebb and flow of a couple's relation.
Not just the plot is a device used as a substitute to tell about the inner workings of this couple. The soundtrack is actually continually reminding us that things are off, that things are at work, that something is rippling below the surface. The soundtrack literally tells us that there are severe cracks forming. The 'inspirational seminar music' is surely intentional, giving off a superficial polish that seems insincere. The low rumblings suggest horror, that things are being ripped apart. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' soundtrack, for which I've got nothing but praise, is outstanding on its own, but how it's actually integrated into the movie, almost becoming a voice in the story is impressive. Fincher and the soundtrack team have really found each other here.
Although surprising in some of its plot twists, Fincher has opted for a more subdued tone for most of this movie. He's extremely controlled though. The camera work and cinematography is completely in line with the mood that every scene needs to have, completely serviceable. There's a very controlled tension throughout. He's just less in-your-face about it than in some of his other movies. And when he finally does go all-out, Fincher proves that he can be uncomfortable and disturbing when needed. Specifically, one scene near the end is outstanding, and highly controlled in its almost micro-delayed way of releasing tension, where you see something happening, are held prisoner for a micro-moments and it hits you a second later what you're actually watching.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Stunning visuals in Hitchcock's most entertaining movie
Seeing this described as light-weight Hitchcock was simply wrong. It has a light atmosphere and there are better Hitchcocks, but it is well-paced and is among the the most entertaining Hitchcock movies yet.
First off: the landscapes of South-France! When the Tour de France is broadcast, it is as much a display of the cycling race as it as a clever marketing job with the most beautiful places of France convincingly filmed by the helicopter crews. Imagine a great director would take over and even further enhance this beauty. To Catch a Thief is just like that. It is a stunning display of the landscapes of South-France, with cars filmed from helicopters, terraces, marinas, skylines filmed from boats. Plot-wise, this is just that, a holiday trip. Nothing serious, but certainly entertaining, optimistic and beautiful. The cinematography here is the most beautiful yet in a Hitchcock movie. The landscapes, cities but also interiors look vivid, sharp yet natural. The costumed ball scene is a beautiful display of colours. The night scenes (with one clumsy obvious day-filmed scene) look mysterious in their green-blueish tint. Directing wise, with regards to composition of the shots, there are other Hitchcocks that are a little better (think Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo for example), but he's on fire here too. Compared with the cinematography this is a visual treat.
Cary Grant is well-cast, strong here. Of the three movies Hitchcock did with Grace Kelly, this is her best performance. Kelly bursts out of the screen, sensual and eager, charismatic, but always elegant. It's no wonder she became a haunting memory to Hitchcock who was trying to recapture her looks in subsequent movies.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Good mystery story that has a lot to offer if you look closely
You can view this as a good mystery story (which I did first time), but on a thematic level this is highly interesting. Hitchcocks juxtaposes the American dream with danger. He works extremely hard to fill the movie with many allusions, metaphors. Note how the survey of the typical American family is not a mere plot element, but also a way of rubbing the ordinary into our faces. Similarly, traditional or common-use things like a waltz theme or the mother baking her perfect cake are used to enhance this image. And meanwhile, there is of course danger threatening to rip this apart. At one point, one of the characters even says it bluntly: "You live in a dream. You're a sleepwalker, blind." And young Charlie's idolisation of her Uncle Charlie is for sure intentionally a little brooding, embodying the tension between the two things at work here. As much as this is an entertaining mystery, it is also Hitchcock's way of forcing us to view the danger amidst the ordinary.
What Hitchcock does here is very reminiscent of what Lynch does in many of his works, particularly Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. There are differences: Lynch goes further and deconstructs the American suburb dream, whereas Hitchcock's main concern is not showing the ugliness within the dream itself, rather showing how there is some ugliness threatening the dream. And perhaps Lynch is a little more perverse (of course he had no Hays censor code to work with).
Rear Window (1954)
Highly effective and enjoyable movie about observation
After Dial M for Murder's obsession with the small details, Hitchcocks takes this style further in Rear Window. Filmed in and from just one room, the camera sways and dances along the windows of the neighbours' houses as life happens. Zooming in there is a lot to be found: Hitchcock manages to create small visual passe-partout stories for each window. This visual style of telling a story is highly effective: we, the viewers, are obsessively watching and trying to pick out the little details just as the main character is. On a pure entertainment level, the plot is suspenseful and always interesting. James Stewart manages to keep the attention. Grace Kelly has grown in her acting since Dial M for Murder and is quite captivating here.
Glamorous, stylish, lush
There were other great Hitchcocks before this (Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt). But whereas before it was always 90% Hitchcock at most, this is the first where he seems to have mastered everything, breaking loose from the production companies, totally feeling like Hitchcock and not like anybody else at all. Notorious is so glamorous, stylish. It just drags you along for the ride. But stiff it ain't. It is very spontaneous and vivid. Bergman and Grant have great chemistry, one of the best matched screen couples I ever saw. Grant is great here, less snappy happy than usual, more subdued, yet very stylish. Seeing him here, it is no wonder he was Ian Fleming's first choice for Bond. Bergman shows a spontaneity that is infectious, lively and sensual. The script is rock solid, well-paced and exciting. The romance isn't tacked on here as an audience warmer, but is equal to the espionage story. The two elements of the story are so intertwined that there is a flow of tension between these two story elements, that it is hard not to care. Visually this is stellar from start to end, with a look that is lush, rich and sexy. The camera work is great (take for example the stunning ball room overhead shot, zooming in on a hand with a key), always in tune with the scale of a scene.
Illogical, but complete in a strange fulfilling way
I find it hard to describe what truly makes Vertigo a great movie. In ways, it could even be said that the plot is inconsequential and seems to have a number of plot-holes. But this is Hitchcock, who not always explains everything through narrative, sometimes opting for subtle movements, even moods or colours to connect parts of stories. And in a strange fulfilling way, Vertigo seems complete because of this.
Right from the bat Vertigo feels different to what has come before in Hitchcock's oeuvre. The opening titles, Herrmann's music (one of the best scores ever committed to tape), the colours form a hypnotic opening. The movie includes all of Hitchcock trademarks (mystery, twists, suspense, an eye for visual shots, great use of music and technique) but on the whole it feels different. It plays on the mind. The themes of the movie seem to have found their way into the directional style as well: it feels despaired, obsessed, restless. There is an incredibly high number of exquisite locations used here, but this is not just scenery candy. Just like the characters, the movie never seems to settle in one place, always on the move from one place to another ("wandering around" as two of the main characters say). It is Hitchcock's way of saying that their characters have not found what they are looking for yet. The scenes use colour not as mere wallpaper, but as feeling, mood. The neon colours used in the second part of the movie not only are stunning to look at, but seem to tell the viewer of instability, falseness. Hitchcock and Robert Burks outdid their selves here, upping colour to the extreme.
Vertigo is not a logical movie in the sense of straight-forwardness. But it hypnotises and then somehow seems appropriately fitting. On a subconscious level it all clicks. I find myself drawn back to it every once in a few years, still lingering somewhere deep down there in my subconscious.
Chelovek s kino-apparatom (1929)
Captures the beauty of filmmaking
Man with a Movie Camera is remarkably exciting for a movie that consists out of seemingly random chosen images, which are not so random at all when you have sunk into the movie after a few minutes. Technically the movie is very impressive. It is highly dynamic too, as lively as a 90's Tarantino movie. Above all though, the movie accomplishes something quite unique. We see shots of the man shooting film and we see the actual shots he made. By showing both the process and the outcome, Man with a Movie Camera makes clear what the beauty of movies is, more than any staged shot (magnificent as it may be) in movie history was ever able to.
Far better than many would make you believe
The sixth entry of the James Bond series has been widely criticised for various reasons, but in truth it was never given a fair chance being the first movie without Sean Connery. It is a far better movie than many of the reviews would make you believe. Granted, one-timer George Lazenby is not the ultimate Bond, but he is capable enough and fits the script well. Looking beyond Lazenby there is a lot to admire though. The Alpine sets look wonderful. The action scenes are very well done. There is a great villain. The Bond girl is actually a good actress. John Barry's instrumental theme is the best of the series. Best of all though, the script (unlike a lot of other Bond movies) and direction are very strong. It is also the most human and personal Bond script (staying quite a bit closer to Fleming's novels than is usually the case), with a true depth to the characters unlike any other Bond movie.
Difficult, but extremely rewarding
Highly disturbing and intense. Antichrist is remembered for an absolutely shocking scene. It is indeed nearly unbearable, but it is a crucial scene in a movie I'd like to be remembered for much more. Willem Dafoe plays a difficult controlled and detached role. Charlotte Gainsbourg's unstable role is downright believable. Antichrist is an amazing work, very largely built on associative images and feelings. In some ways it is a dark distant cousin of Don't Look Now, another movie with a couple grieving over the death of their child. Like that movie, this movie is as much about a couple in a world in which all of its beauty is somehow transformed into an evil and ugly thing. The character work here is stellar, but a lot of the darkness comes from the places the characters move through. Note how there are various things (out of nature) falling throughout the movie, constantly evoking the fall of the dead child. To cap it off Antichrist boosts the most beautiful cinematography of Von Trier's career yet, glossy and macabre at the same time.
Antichrist is a difficult movie. It is not a movie that is to be liked. It is about fear. Fear is an emotion that should scare the hell out of you, not something to laugh at. If this movie succeeded in shocking the crap out of audiences, I say Von Trier got across his point about fear just fine.
Don't Look Now (1973)
Outstanding movie, quite unlike any other movie out there
Don't Look Now has always done something quite unlike any other movie out there: I am able to totally emerge in it. Every re-watch sheds new light on several details I did not notice before. It is indeed a movie that increasingly gets better with every re-watch.
Roeg's movie is an incredibly layered movie. His editing and camera work are highly effective in creating associations between scenes and images that are narratively not immediately related. The famous sex scene is always mentioned as the best example in this movie of his intertwined cutting. It is indeed beautifully done, but there is so much more of the intertwined cutting. The images of water and glass are constantly used to re-evoke the death of the couple's daughter. As characters turn their head, Roeg switches to characters in another place, also turning their head, relating them as if they were in one room. It strengthens the movie's second sight theme through mere visuals.
Venice is beautifully shot. Not as a postcard, but as a place of dread, grief and fear. This Venice is like a mortuary, devoid of people and beauty. It tries to put the characters wandering through it on a wrong track, wanting them either gone or devouring them inside.
Sutherland and Christie are realistically human. Sutherland seems to simultaneously underact and overact at first, but easing in, he fits extremely well in his character. Christie manages to get across the loving, but slightly unstable traits of her character. It is just Sutherland and Christie though that seem human (and even Sutherland's character is portrayed in an ambiguous way at points). Other supporting characters seem as much part of the dread of Venice. The father, the chief of police and the two sisters are extremely ambiguous: their eyes do frighten more than they reassure you.
Many people have been disappointed by the ending twist and it possibly is in a first watch. But this particular scene is the key to the whole movie: the story is an existential one, about fate. All of the themes in the story before are strengthened by it. It is a much more satisfying one than what would be expected. And indeed, during re-watches the scene is stronger than it ever was: it is an absolutely chilling scene.
Don't Look Now is so often overlooked. If you haven't yet, watch it. And then again...