Tuesday, 3 July 2007

This is the Zodiac speaking...

It’s rare that Monkey Pipe reads the book of the film. There have been occasions where I’ve done it the other way round, interested in film as I am, and interested in seeing how the movie in my mind compares with the imagining of a director.

Monkey Pipe is also not prone to a) watch films for an actors sake – I’m a fan of actors for performances in roles; b) watch a film for the sake of a director – great directors make terrible films; c) get all excited about the summer block-buster season. Films being big are not cause enough for celebration, and I have over these last few years been less and less interested in the hype machine that rolls out and across the screen once a year.

With these things in mind though, one film has been on my ‘to watch’ list for a while, although by no means a blockbuster. Zodiac, the David Fincher helmed movie telling of the series of unsolved murders in 60’s/70’s California that were claimed by a taunting individual calling himself Zodiac.

David Fincher is an interesting director; Alien3 almost destroyed him, Se7en made him, Fight Club showed him to be a fantastically creative and humourous director – and then there are the oddities of The Game and Panic Room, ideas that both seemed to fail to stretch to fill the feature-film length.

Zodiac is an altogether different film. Mature, well paced and methodically thought out, it’s about as far removed from Se7en as a serial killer movie can be. The performances across the board seemed perfectly in-tune. Only Robert Downey Jr’s flamboyant turn as San Fran Chronicle reporter, Paul Avery, was perhaps a out of playing with the others. Mark Ruffalo was excellent – an actor who performs with fantastic naturalism.

I left the cinema, having watched the movie alone one afternoon – a reneged deal from Mrs Pipe, which saw me sit through Painted Veil on the understanding that we’d see Zodiac together upon it’s release – and was suitably impressed with the surreal creepiness.

A little while later, I saw a copy of Robert Greysmith’s book, Zodiac, a collection of facts and reports, compiled by the author. I’m not a fan of ‘true-crime’, in fact, I’m not the biggest fan of crime fiction, but, with the film still ringing in my mind, I decided to give it a go.

As with the film, there was a perfect surreal and creepy tone in Greysmith’s presentation. Often dense and flatly factual, the book was incredibly compelling and at times frightening. It weaves in police procedure and witness reports, and tells of an individual – Zodiac – a thousand times more terrible than any fictional serial-killing villains. Perhaps the knowledge of the unsolved nature of the crimes made them seem more real, despite some taking place nearly 40 years earlier. It also made me realise what an excellent job Fincher and his cast and crew had done in adapting the book to the screen.

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