David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finds the master stylist following up his Oscar-snubbed tale of the creation of Facebook (The Social Network, my favorite film of 2010), with a glossy, neo-noir re-adaptation of the first title in late Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s universally popular Millennium trilogy (previously adapted in 2009 by Niels Arden Oplov, with its Swedish title translating appropriately to “Men Who Hate Women”), and a return to the religiously-themed serial killer subgenre he broke into with Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007). Rooney Mara is astonishing as Lisbeth Salander, the pale, skeletal, bisexual Goth computer hacker with a photographic memory and a violent Asberger’s affliction (footnote: this is the second film in a row by Fincher to top my year-end list and also to revolve around a technologically-masterful antisocial misanthrope). Her eventual teaming with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig, hired by well-off and suspicious Christopher Plummer) to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of a 16-year-old member of the powerfully secretive and reclusive Vanger clan (including an unsettling Stellan Skarsgard) makes for one hypnotically involving crime mystery. This also has the absolute best title sequence I’ve seen in a long time (with Fincher and composers Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross perhaps trying to make up for the lack of a stunning title sequence last year), winding us insidiously through some deep, dark, ink black animated visual elements of the story (think James Bond) set to the hard-charging, violent strains of Reznor, Ross & Karen O’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” – if there were an Oscar for best use of pre-existing music this would win hands down. There is a further musical interlude that mustn’t go unnoticed: I won’t spoil the outcome for those who haven’t read the book or seen the previous film, except to say the way Fincher utilizes Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” will have you chilled to the bone and never capable of hearing that song the same way again. Finally, under all this style is self-contained stylistic element Rooney Mara, imbuing her emotionally aloof, tough-skinned heroine with something that the Swedish films lacked – soul.
Monthly Archives: December 2011
Steve McQueen’s Shame is one of several films this year that seem to have decided to opt for ambiguity and understatement rather than outright obvious tell-tale signs. Michael Fassbender gives yet another great performance to compare with his work in Inglourious Basterds, Fish Tank and McQueen’s Hunger (in which he lost weight to play IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands) as Brandon, a Manhattan businessman whose posh high-rise lifestyle allows for him to indulge his sex addiction – whether it be adjourning to the public restroom for masturbatory thrills, filling his company hard drive with viral porn, or the countless meaningless encounters that take up his days and nights. His lifestyle is interrupted, as it were, by Cissy (Carey Mulligan, no less heartbreaking), his nightclub singer sister whose own past with Brandon is…ambiguous at best. Mulligan’s touchingly melancholy rendition of “New York, New York” is a stunning summation of everything that is wrong with these two broken-spirited souls.