[This is the first installment of a new monthly feature, The Conversations, in which Jason Bellamy and I will discuss a wide range of cinematic subjects: critical analyses of films, filmmaker overviews, and more. These conversations are being published at the great multi-author film blog The House Next Door. Our debut discussion centers around the work of David Fincher, beginning with a lengthy analysis of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and taking off from there into an in-depth appraisal of Fincher's career as a whole. I'm very proud of this piece, so go take a look by following the link below for the full article. Jason's introductory remarks are included here as a teaser.]
JASON BELLAMY: Ed, earlier this year we had a lengthy and spirited debate about Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York. Encapsulating that exchange is difficult, but to nutshell it as best I can: I argued that Kaufman's film is "complex for complexity's sake" and that Synecdoche's inner themes aren't worth the effort of their labyrinthine design; you disagreed and argued that the structure was "encoded with elegant metaphors." Throughout our exchange, at my blog and yours, I'm not sure that the word "gimmick" was ever used, but thematically that was the bonfire we danced around.
I bring all this up because David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, inspired by a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a 166-minute exercise about a man (Brad Pitt's Benjamin Button) who ages backward. He's born, on the night after the end of World War I, the size of an infant with the physical maladies of an old man, and from there his body grows younger while his spirit and soul grow older and more experienced. Within the margins of this story are ankle-deep philosophical waxings about the aging process (body vs. mind), a fairly straightforward love story and a Forrest Gump-esque trip through American history. But I wonder: Is Benjamin Button anything more than a gimmick?