I first became aware of David Fincher when I saw Se7en, a movie that still freaks me out. It’s dark, gritty, often gross, and the twist ending makes it hard to re-watch. I can’t verify that this is actually a quote from him but I found it on his imdb page and it makes the point, “I don’t know how much movies should entertain. To me, I’m always interested in movies that scar. The thing I love about Jaws is the fact that I’ve never gone swimming in the ocean again.” Se7en scarred me. I mean, I’ll still receive and open UPS packages but still.
The next Fincher movie I saw was Fight Club. Apparently, it is now considered bro-ish to do so, but I unapologetically love Fight Club. It came at a time in my life when I had just been laid off from my very first job so a crazy person screaming, “you are not your jobs, you are not how much money you have in the bank!” struck a chord with me. Edward Norton was still in his early, unbroken streak of iconic performances and Brad Pitt was just so damn cool. The irony of an anti-corporate movie being made by a Hollywood studio with millionaire movie stars wouldn’t dawn on me for a few years but even after that realization, I still love the style, the humor, and the chaos.
After that, I watched the movie he made between those two, The Game, and dug it. I have since loved Benjamin Button, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network. Last year I saw Zodiac, which is pretty underrated. I saw Gone Girl in the theater. Hell, I even watched Panic Room. (I haven’t seen Alien 3 but, to be fair, I don’t even think Sigourney Weaver watched Alien 3.)
So, yeah, I love David Fincher. It turns out that I even love him retroactively.
For whatever reason, I haven’t adopted Spotify. Instead, youtube has become my own personal on demand MTV. When I just feel like listening to music, I hide the browser window. But other times I’ll re-watch some of my favorite music videos from middle school (when MTV actually played music videos).
For example, to this day, I will still re-watch “Freedom! ’90,” one of my favorite videos of all time. I actually knew that David Fincher directed this. I just didn’t know how many other videos he had directed.
At about 4:30, you can see a signature Fincher move. He uses blackouts as transitions as he does at the beginning of the third act of Fight Club, where Tyler Durden gives his speech about his ideal anarchist world and then disappears. I also maintain that the director of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” video was heavily influenced by this video.
Another video that I rediscovered was Sting’s “Englishman in New York.”
I’m a sucker for anything black and white in New York and there aren’t a lot of videos that show the beauty of snow in New York or a walk in New York when you can see your breath. I discovered two things, though. One, the woman in this video is actually a man, Quentin Crisp. Two, this video was directed by – you guessed it – David Fincher.
So, naturally, I took to google and found this wikipedia list of all of his music videos.
He directed a fair number of music videos that I really enjoyed. This one, for example, may just be a favorite of mine. Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love.”
This video I distinctly remember from summers spent inside my house, not going outside to hang out with other kids. This song was from the movie The Adventures of Ford Fairlain, which was a vehicle for Andrew Dice Clay. Dice was still very much in the public eye at that point, though on the wane. Kids still had to keep tapes of his comedy hidden from their parents. 1990 was the year that he had his infamous SNL appearance where Nora Dunn and Sinead O’Connor refused to be on the same show with him. This video could also be filed under old New York. It’s a take down of yuppies. With the square yuppie having his world turned upside down by the young dancing girl who ruins his Julian Schnabel inspired plate art. Kind of like Bright Lights Big City or Griffin Dunne in After Hours.
I’ve always been puzzled why Aerosmith, a band whose oeuvre tends toward the celebration of casual sex, would write a song about a girl who murders her sexually abusive father. But who better to direct that video than David Fincher? This video, both literally and thematically dark, shows a preview of his movies to come.
He’s been at this for while, too. He made videos for two quintessentially eighties pop hits. Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.”
And Johnny Hates Jazz’s “Shattered Dreams.”
Neither one is particularly remarkable but they’re both slick and stylish as hell in an eighties kind of way.
I was never a fan of Steve Winwood but I always would watch this sepia toned video for its imagery: the close up shots of worn dancing shoes, the slow motion of the guy retrieving his wallet to throw some money on the bar.
Paul Abdul is now known more for her erratic appearances on American Idol than anything else but I’ve always loved this first single of hers. Fincher used this same grainy black and white for “Forever Your Girl” (featuring Elijah Wood at 1:45 in one of his first roles, an homage to the “Boys of Summer” video). He also directed the far slicker and stranger “Cold Hearted” but “Straight Up” is still a great pop song and great video. (No idea who directed the MC Skat Cat video, though, and I don’t want to know.)
Jody Watley’s “Real Love” is just kind of a bonus. It’s in the same vein as Jermaine Stewart’s video, every bit as stylish and slick. R & B generally isn’t my genre of choice but I always loved this song.
This video may have been the peak of Madonna’s career or perhaps it just is in my mind. This song is actually off of the album I’m Breathless, referring to her role as Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy, but it came right after Like a Prayer. Fincher also directed “Express Yourself” from that album but it’s “Vogue” that sticks out in my mind as a classically nineties video.
There were a couple of videos that I thought may have been directed by him, like “Love Will Never Do Without You” (that was Herb Ritts). Mark Pellington directed “Jeremy.” Mark Romanek directed “Closer.” But still, Fincher is responsible for more of my favorite videos than I thought. I remember when he accepted an MTV Movie award for Se7en. He said, “When this movie first came out a lot of people said it’s just an MTV movie, it’s uh, it’s only an MTV movie and tonight I just want to say, what’s the problem with that?”