Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Not So Disturbing...Disturbing

Just finished watching a couple of movies which really don't seem to have much in common -- except for a rather apparent desire to shock and disturb their viewers.

The first was Se7en, a 1995 serial killer tale directed by David Fincher. I seem to have a thing for coming upon Fincher's movies rather late. I didn't see Fight Club until earlier this year, and I still haven't seen Zodiac.

Fincher, for his part, seems to have a thing for mass murderers, moving from this one, through Fight Club and on to Zodiac.

In a nutshell, just in case there is anyone in the world besides me who has yet to see this movie, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt play a pair of mismatched homicide detectives on the trail of a serial-killing Kevin Spacey.

Spacey's character's conceit -- well, hell he's got plenty of those, starting with his nom de meurtre of "John Doe" -- is his desire to show the world in general and the city in particular (New York? Philly? Seattle? who knows -- any city where it consistently pours, even while the sun is shining) the errors of its ways by highlighting the particular sins of his seven (five? six? eight?) whackees.

In the end it seems as though John Doe's allusions of grandeur are really little more than the delusions of grandeur that Pitt's character dismissively labels them. In spite of Gwyneth Paltrow's unfortunate separation (and really, who didn't see that coming?), John Doe's blaze of glory hardly seems destined to light the fuse that will embolden all of society to clean up its act -- murderously, if need be.

Se7en appears to have pretentions of commentary on all sorts of societal ills, as well as cinematic allusions to most of the classics with which John Doe is obsessed. Shakespeare was probably the most apropos classicist, however, w/r/t this one -- "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

It does look great, though, as is seemingly true of most of Fincher's movies (I say seemingly because Zodiac looks to be the best looking of them all, but, well, you know).

Then there's The Bridge.

Where Se7en desperately wants to display a disturbing side of life, The Bridge, inspired by a brilliant 2003 New Yorker article called "Jumpers," truly does. It is a documentary rumination on life, those who choose on their own to end it, and those they leave behind, all the while using the Golden Gate Bridge as the world's largest and most beautiful scrim.

The great bridge seems to tower over and within the psyches of the troubled residents of The City (and probably all of its other residents as well). Small wonder, as it is a thing -- in its combination of design, color, setting, ingenuity, size and sheer audacity -- unlike anything else made by man.

There are moments in this film, in keeping with its backdrop, that are quite literally breathtaking, when I gasped in shock. Were those moments, and indeed the film as a whole, exploitative? Possibly. Quite probably, in fact.

But the examination of how the individual and the infrastructure combine in a moment comprised equally of beauty and despair make it a true piece of art -- a thing that makes you look at the world through different eyes -- like the bridge itself.

The Bridge may well be worth hating, but it is absolutely worth seeing.