Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fincher and Reznor and Mara - oh my!

I'd been stuck in a long flirtation with my second viewing of The Social Network.

I'd encounter it in the darkened corners of the library video section, and it would call out to me. "What me again, lover ... watch me again."

Okay, so there was nothing untoward about my desire to see The Social Network a second time. I ranked it third among the movies I saw in 2010, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were ranking now, it might be #1. Neither of the movies I ranked ahead of it -- 127 Hours and Tangled -- are defending their spots very well. I bought Tangled on BluRay and watched it a second time, and though I still loved it, the near ecstasy I experienced watching it the first time just wasn't there. And it's telling that I have had no such flirtation for my second viewing of 127 Hours. I've intellectually contemplated the idea that I should want to see it again, and thought about it in that respect, but it hasn't gone any further. And it's not that I'm squeamish over "the scene," which was actually one of my favorite parts in terms of the visceral intensity that makes me love movies. I just can't be bothered to prioritize a second viewing.

But my second Social Network viewing was so hard to resist that I finally broke down and borrowed it from the library yesterday. Truth is, I hadn't even been planning to go the library at all, but I had my son out on a walk and wanted to kill some extra time, to give my wife (sick at home) a little more downtime before we returned. Not only did I come away with The Social Network, but it made its way into the DVD player that very night, when my wife retired early due to her aforementioned physical malady.

I loved it again -- probably not more than the first time, but probably about the same amount. Especially the first half.

See, the first half contains all the Rooney Mara parts.

The old acting adage "There are no small parts, just small actors" certain applies to Mara. She's only in two scenes in this movie -- well, three, if you count her brief reaction shot to reading Mark Zuckerberg's blog post about her. And you should count that scene, because the look of indignant, hurt, disbelieving betrayal in her eyes, as they well up with tears, is itself a clinic on acting. The fact that I require so many adjectives to describe her performance in that one shot means that this girl has got chops, chops out the wazoo.

Which is why, of course, David Fincher cast "this girl" to be his Girl. When I spoke about visceral intensity in terms of Aron Rolston cutting off his arm in 127 Hours, that has a fairly literal interpretation. But visceral intensity can come in less obvious forms, and Rooney Mara is certainly one of them. There's something about her eyes that just penetrate through to the truth of any matter, and those eyes are going to tear people to shreds in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

But it's not just the reunion of director and actress that makes me excited for the Hollywood remake of Stieg Larsson's most famous novel. Don't forget a third essential collaborator who will be back for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- Trent Reznor, who won an Oscar (which he graciously shared with Atticus Ross) for his Social Network score.

That was another part of my second Social Network viewing that I really loved -- hearing Reznor's music, which I've heard many times on my ipod, in the context of the movie once again. The way those songs are interwoven into the action is simply chilling, particularly the two memorable uses of "Hand Covers Bruise" -- when Zuckerberg jogs back across the Harvard campus after getting dumped, and when Eduardo Saverin gets all up in his face after seeing his shares diluted down to worthlessness. I was enjoying the music so much that I pumped up the volume on the wireless headphones, far beyond the level that would have been needed for me to hear the dialogue.

It's appropriate that I should have just watched The Social Network a second time on the heels of a month in which I watched three movies from Hammer Studios, two of which featured director Terence Fisher, two of which featured actor Christopher Lee, and all three of which featured actor Peter Cushing. It's increasingly rare these days that you see collaborators work together with such frequency as they did back then. Oh, you might get an actor who likes working with a director, or even a pair of actors and a director (Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton being one example). But a director, an actor and a composer -- well, that's the kind of teamwork that goes beyond the relationship that exists on opposing sides of the camera.

You wouldn't want to push that kind of thing too far, of course. The most interesting filmmakers are the ones who test their boundaries by collaborating with people who can expand their artistic vision in differing ways. After all, does anyone think the Depp-Bonham Carter-Burton partnership has an ounce of fertility still in it?

But I'm just glad I've got at least one more film in the Mara-Fincher-Reznor partnership to look forward to.

I haven't been able to determine if there are plans to remake The Girl Who Played With Fire, and if so, whether the same principal talents would be involved. Perhaps it depends on the success of the first movie, due out next month. And even if successful, perhaps Fincher would not consider it a challenge to reprise as director. His only other experience making a sequel -- Alien 3, which was of course not a sequel to his own movie -- was an unmitigated failure. I could easily see Mara staying but Fincher and Reznor exiting. Actors often have sequels written into their contracts, whereas directors and (certainly) composers tend not to. (The whole continuity thing, you see.)

So I'll savor The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo when it comes out. The trailers have certainly primed me for that.

And, somewhere down the road, the flirtation will begin again for that third viewing of The Social Network.

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