TELLURIDE FILM FEST
Early Reaction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Footage
by Alex Billington
August 30, 2008
My first event here at the Telluride Film Festival was a tribute to David Fincher, arguably one the best filmmakers currently working in Hollywood. The tribute featured about 45 minutes of clips from his previous filmography, an incredibly lengthy and somewhat boring on-stage interview (thanks to Variety's unexciting critic Todd McCarthy as the interviewer), and roughly 20 minutes of select footage from his upcoming film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Highlights from Fincher's Q&A included referencing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as the the film that sparked his interest in filmmaking as well as mentioning I Saw What You Did, Jaws, and Rear Window as the movies that he remembers most as a kid. And as for the Benjamin Button footage - it unfortunately wasn't that great.
As everyone hopefully already knows, I've been proclaiming that Benjamin Button will be Fincher's next masterpiece. This excitement is purely based off of the beautifully crafted trailer that played in front of Indiana Jones this summer. Part of the problem with this footage at Telluride was that it was snippets of scenes, a sampling of various moments throughout the film. I couldn't tell where things fit in, how they progressed, or any of the actual story structure. Instead, it just flipped back and forth between some amazing moments and boring or hilarious scenes. The result was quite unimpressive, but I'm left wondering whether it was the editor to blame for this 20 minute cut or whether the film really has problems.
There is one thing that will never change with David Fincer - his movies have always and will always look amazing. I'm a guy who is dependent on strong visuals as well as a strong story and with Benjamin Button, he succeeded again. There were some scenes, particularly when a young (although he looked old) Ben Button was on a ship and they encounter a transport ship / cruise liner that had been torpedoed and was burning in the water. These kinds of moments, and countless others, did look fantastic, but that only confirmed what I knew was coming. Whenever a film is sold as an epic and gripping drama (refer to this trailer) and then pulls a bait and switch and starts rattling off humor that causes audiences to laugh wildly, it really annoys me. And there were very "funny" lines that made the audience laugh, but left me sitting with a frown.
Here's the thing - I'm not claiming that Benjamin Button is Fincher's first downward turn. In fact, I've still got very high hopes. I'm just confused and honestly concerned. Maybe Paramount is right to try and cut some of the film out and edit it down. I thought Zodiac felt a bit long as well, despite being an otherwise fantastic film. The footage didn't leave me with any higher hopes than before, but it didn't exactly destroy my expectations. We were shown footage from almost all of Fincher's previous films just before, and watching all of that made me realize yet again how amazing of a filmmaker Fincher truly is. He's done nothing to hint that he won't succeed yet again and I'm still looking forward to Benjamin Button.
Fincher explained during the Q&A that the film is really about the people and the experiences that leave an impression on one's life. And although I didn't exactly love all of the footage that I saw, it was obviously clear that this was truly the message that Fincher was getting across in his film. I love that concept and I think that idea will really shine through in Benjamin Button, I just hope that we'll get a thoroughly compelling story as well. Only time will tell if the finished product will differ.
I'm a little let down by this but I refuse to give up on Fincher. How were the performances? Any standouts?
Joanne on Aug 30, 2008
Epics can't have funny moments? ahaha
Darunia on Aug 30, 2008
I wouldn't worry about this. It does seem that there's this current perception that only totally humourless films are worth praising, and to be honest I'm kind of sick of the pompous po-faced dreariness that the current climate is inflicting upon audiences in the pursuit of being 'relevant.' Fincher has a dry sense of humour; there are moments to make you smile in all of his movies - no matter how bleak they are tonally - as in real life. In short - Alex, lighten up!
Daaaave on Aug 30, 2008
I don't think he is referring to no humor in dramas. I think it is placed at times where it isn't appropriate.
L on Aug 30, 2008
From the trailer, it looks like there will be some funny parts... I think the old man trying to walk like a child needs to have some humor in it because otherwise it's just creepy. I think once you get used to the fact that it's just an old Brad Pitt, it'll be... I dunno, it kinda reminds me of Forrest Gump with the leg splints. It might be like Forrest Gump where it's one man's life and history as a backdrop. I don't think he's gonna be involved in every major incident over the past 80 years, but... Seven had a lot of humor in it, too. Helped break the tension and feel for the characters. Also, it is coming out on Christmas, so they want families to come. I like Fincher but I feel that it's kinda soon to be doing a retrospective on him. He's only done 6 or 7 films.
el cuckoo on Aug 30, 2008
is this movie gonna get a wide release or is it limited, becuase its good enuff to make alot of cash money
LeeMan on Aug 30, 2008
I probably sounded angrier there than I meant to. Sorry about that! But I'm looking forward to this, definitely.
Daaaave on Aug 30, 2008
Natural Born Philistine!
DCompose on Aug 31, 2008
I agree. The man is an idiot. He raves about how good fichner and how good the footage is THEN he says how terrible and boring it was. Make up your mind alex. Or get a new job....as long as you aren't doing dumb as brick movie reviews.
one on Aug 31, 2008
Yeah, one, because your comment is obviously fucking GENIUS. Read the article carefully you idiot. Oh and one, just because you insult someone on the internet, it doesn't make you more of a man.
two on Aug 31, 2008
Oh cause i totally feel more manly saying someone is a moron....good observasion. i bet you feel more like a man insulting me on the internet...come on..you know you do... and the fact remains true...alex IS an idiot when it comes to film and reviews. nice try twat! oh sorry..."TWO" by the way...original name...very edgy.
one on Sep 1, 2008
i just don't understand why every where i go anymore, people are so angry. I mean even on the internet all the time. This is just a movie for god sake! This is what is wrong with this world. If people would just stop being so angry and rude all of the time we could all try and make someones day a little better and then who knows. Isn't this life hard enough?
kristina on Jan 16, 2009
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