A Curious Case in the Criterion Collection

Benjamin Button Motorcycle II

What murmured midnight pacts led to to this abomination?

David Fincher belongs in the Criterion Collection, sure, but for his 2007 masterpiece, Zodiac, not this bloated mishap. In a decade or so, we’ll want all of Fincher’s films for study no matter how flawed (any Alien 3 champions here? Panic Room?). But this is too soon.

I can accept that Criterion’s business model demands the occasional screwball on the roster (cough, cough). I’d put up with a lot more aesthetic affirmative action if solvency were really at stake. But, seriously, Benjamin Button?

Yes, it’s a technical marvel.

Yes, the lighting is masterful.

No, I don’t find it dubious to enjoy a film for the sheer beauty of its performers.

Yes, I think divisive critical reception is a merit.


When I interviewed him, […] Fincher did mention […] that he trusts his own “radar for mawkishness” and that he understands “the difference between sentiment and sentimentality.” I wish that the hummingbird hadn’t flown beneath that radar, and also that it had detected the damage done to what are impressively complex characters by the “instamatic” portraits with their vacuous, one-line IDs at the end. And I wish the even more lugubrious, unconvincing framing story, which […] uses Hurricane Katrina to drum up the drama only to drop it right before it hits, could simply disappear. — Amy Taubin, Film Comment, Jan. 2009

Well said. Of all the film’s faults, the Katrina evocation is the most grave. It stinks of misguided politics. How does the destruction of New Orleans have anything to do with the lives the characters led there, the ‘transience of beauty’, or administrative incompetence? Just who does the movie want us to blame? (It reminded me of Kramer’s protest against the Post Office: ‘Why does this dummy have a bucket on its head?’ ‘Because we’re blind to their tyranny.’ ‘Then shouldn’t you be wearing the bucket?’ ‘Yea, move along, Betty.’)

And yet… as so often happens with me and the movies, my memory errs on the side of charity, and while writing this I began to remember vividly Button‘s triumphs: that gliding WWI shot played in reverse, the Russian suite with Tilda Swinton; the more I search, the more I find to redeem it—to a point. I’ll share Taubin’s conclusion: ‘flawed, but not fatally so.’ And if this timely marketing coup marks Fincher’s induction into the Collection (the first film of many to come, I mean), we should welcome it wholeheartedly; to a long and fruitful partnership!

I must sound ambivalent. That’s what blogging at night gets you. Curious case, indeed.


~ by ohkrapp on May 13, 2009.

2 Responses to “A Curious Case in the Criterion Collection”

  1. evidence of my commitment to just posting whatever ive written at the end of the night instead of condemning it to the archives. unequivocality is unnatural.

  2. actually i really like the life aquatic. and, for that matter, the rock.

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