Saturday, April 23, 2011

This is the Zodiac speaking...

I’m currently reading ZODIAC UNMASKED by Robert Graysmith – I finished his first ZODIAC book a couple months ago – and I’m gearing up to watch David Fincher’s ZODIAC film. The books are very well written and interesting to see from the first hand – and it’s easy to see how Graysmith got so wrapped up in the mystery of it all. Reading the books is also bringing to light – how very well made Fincher’s film is.

Fincher captures not only the mania surrounding the ZODIAC killer – but also the obsession of Graysmith – and how it ate away at Avery, Toschi and Armstrong – the lack of cooperation between the various jurisdictions not realizing the fact that the killer was planning on them to not cooperate so it would make his secrets easier to maintain.

You’d naturally think that in a serial killer film – it’s the crimes, the killer and the cops that take center stage – and the investigation is only a by-product of all of those things – a way to fill the middle of the film. What’s really interesting about this case is that the killer shows up – taunts everyone - and then disappears – leaving everyone to wonder and the complexity of the entire investigation is what is interesting.

As I’m reading the second book – I keep flashing to the scenes in the film – it’s beautiful how the two are really playing off each other so very well. Fincher’s capturing the era of the late 60’s/early 70’s – is outstanding – the constant doubt if they are on the right path.

Graysmith goes on in the books to link various unsolved murders in Northern California to the lead suspect and his habits – and draws a much thicker stronger line in the sand saying that his suspect IS the killer. The evidence all points to it – and it’s hard to argue – but the fact that there hasn’t been a definitive swab of DNA or finger print makes it remain a mystery still.

Guns, bombs, articles on Zodiac, articles on how to successfully plea an insanity defense, recipe cards that have the same misspellings as do the Zodiac letters, a Zodiac divers watch the only other place than the letters that feature word Zodiac and the crosshair symbol – all pulled from the main suspects home in a search warrant weeks before his death. The suspect’s psychiatrist claims to have heard his confession in session over and over. The suspect’s brother, sister in-law, friends and former associates all claiming to suspect him for various reasons – up to claiming he wants to hunt humans and call himself Zodiac – or bragging that he IS Zodiac. The fact that the suspect was one of the first interviewed as a suspect in one of the early murders – only to be ruled out by a “gut feeling” – and no note remains as to why he was fingered.

This is all interesting and damning – but hardly a court case to be made to be a serial killer.

Fincher keeps the mystery going until the very end – then even at the end gives us a bit of an ellipsis – a cute little wink by saying that the suspect died before he was brought in or charged – which is enough to place a little doubt.

I’m willing to argue that ZODIAC is Fincher’s best film. I think it’s fair to say that Fincher’s best film is generally regarded as SE7EN. Don’t get me wrong - SE7EN is a really good film – it has solid acting – an interesting plot - it’s dark and gory and interesting - and has a really strong twist ending that wraps the story – but ZODIAC doesn’t have all that the powerful ending – but it remains AS strong missing those “shocking” elements. I think if you strip out the shock elements out of SE7EN – it doesn’t hold up.

It’s such an subjective argument though – so arguing that it’s a “better” film is not really valid. You can’t strip out part of a film and then really judge it as a film because the film is an entire work. I could judge the films more easily based on my “liking” one better than the other – and ZODIAC is certainly becoming my favorite of Fincher’s films and that’s more what I’m about than judging which is “better” for reasons of which I have to inflict on the film.

When I finally finish ZODIAC UNMASKED going to pair Fincher’s film up with DIRTY HARRY and make it a double feature – as it’s a bit of an homage to the Zodiac case – but in the end Harry gets his Zodiac (Gemini killer).

So much for due process, huh, Toschi?

[27-Apr-2011 edit: of course I meant Scorpio not Gemini - I was thinking of the Exorcist film (the 3rd) that had the homage to Zodiac in it and THAT homage was named Gemini - not the Dirty Harry homage which was Scorpio]

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