ad info
   first chapters
   reader's cafe

 Headline News brief
 news quiz
 daily almanac

 video archive
 multimedia showcase
 more services

Subscribe to one of our news e-mail lists.
Enter your address:
Get a free e-mail account

 message boards

CNN Websites
 En Español
 Em Português


Networks image
 more networks

 ad info



October 19, 1999
Web posted at: 2:22 p.m. EDT (1822 GMT)

'Fight Club' | page 1, 2

Sniffing the potential for media disaster, director David Fincher seized the high ground and declared that what made the bloodshed in "Fight Club" different from that in, say, "Blade," was this: "'Fight Club' puts violence in a context that is moral." He testified that he'd even experimented with deleting some of the violence, but found that it made the remaining graphic episodes seem more vicious. Having preempted all the ethical arguments against it, Fincher went on to say that he saw the film as the journey of the narrator to maturity, and that he hoped it would appeal to people who are not doing what they want to do and are tired of letting others define them.

Fincher brought up his unique affinity for the anti-consumer angle as a renowned director of commercials who made "lifestyle" ads in the '80s -- lite-beer slots selling fantasies of nocturnal cities with sleek blonds in black cocktail dresses. Yet before Fincher could expand on turning commercial techniques inside-out in "Fight Club," he was deflected into discussing a tentative adaptation of James Ellroy's "Black Dahlia." He won me over when he was asked whether he thought Ellroy was from another planet. "Yes, he's from another planet," said Fincher, "but in a great way."

Also from another planet -- Planet Gen X? -- is the consistently brilliant Norton. The high point of his Q&A came early, when he characterized "Fight Club" as "this weird millennial 'Catcher in the Rye.'" When asked the dangerous "What's the message?" question, Norton gamely talked about the tangle of complaints and themes in the book, and how they called for a director capable of handling "dialectic" and "moral ambiguity" -- as he thought Fincher had done triumphantly in "Seven." He explained the dialectics of "Fight Club": "Tyler's practical execution of this idea of self-liberation through a kind of anarchism: Is that negative? Did that become negative in its own right? Did people who were surrounding him lose their identity as much as they had been before they got into this whole thing? Or was this narrator afraid to go the final mile?" Norton praised Fincher for leaving the audience "without essentially a pat theme or a glib conclusion; it doesn't get wrapped up in a neat package for you so you can walk out and go, 'Oh, the message of that film was this.'"

So far, so eloquent. However, when Norton spoke about chortling with recognition over Palahniuk's book, he conveyed a Gen X tunnel-vision. Reading it, he said, "You instantaneously remember little passages, like: 'We're the first generation raised on television, and we've been raised to believe that we should all be millionaires and rock stars and everything, and we're discovering that most of us aren't, and we're getting very upset about that.'" Norton turned 30 in August. He accepted the book's notion that his generation is "having its value system largely dictated to it by advertising culture." He agreed with Palahniuk that many of his peers thought they could achieve "spiritual happiness through home furnishing," only to wake up to the emptiness of "acquisitions" and a "received value system."

There may be something to Norton's belief that "my generation is having its midlife crisis in its 20s." Yet many another graduating class has claimed to be the first raised on TV; Sinclair Lewis was pillorying all the other stuff 70 years ago.

Norton keeps touting this movie as "The Graduate" for the '90s. To a lot of us who saw "The Graduate" in the '60s, what limited it was precisely its youth-centric self-absorption. Norton was particularly proud that Fincher had let him and Brad Pitt add a bit about bashing a new Volkswagen beetle with baseball bats. "There's the perfect example of the baby-boomer generation marketing its youth culture to us as if our happiness is going to come by buying the symbol of their own youth movement." But isn't the VW bug the perfect example of boomers peddling their youth to themselves?

I happened to sit next to Jim Uhls, the screenwriter, at the press screening. He laughed all through the movie. And he had a functioning sense of irony: When I asked him to pick a place where we could meet privately to discuss this epic about the tyranny of brand names, he boldly suggested Starbuck's.

Two days later at Starbuck's, Uhls was still laughing. Why wouldn't he be? "Fight Club," his first produced script, will at least be a cause célèbre. Uhls, who studied theater and film at UCLA from 1983 to '85, had been peddling a spec script that suggested he had the temperament to transpose Palahniuk's novel.

Uhls describes that script as a "romantic comedy, but not a typical romantic comedy. It has to do with the characters' attitudes toward a healthy relationship, which is a lot of behavior which seems unhealthy and harsh to each other, but in fact does work for them -- because both characters are out on the edge psychologically."

Next page | Uhls: "It's been a while since I was in a physical fight"


Enter keyword(s)   go    help


Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.