Taste the testosterone. Welcome to Spike TV’s 2009 Guys Choice awards, where Fight Club is up for induction into the Guy Hall Of Fame by Mel Gibson.
Gibbo rides in on horseback, sporting a horned Viking helmet and smoking a big, fat cigar. Clubbers David Fincher, Ed Norton and Brad Pitt are invited to take the stage – and take it they do.
“Thanks, sugar tits,” Pitt quips, lapping up the applause and giving it some rock-star swagger. Then the trouble-causing trio quote from press smack-downs the Club endured 10 years back, giggling like kids at Roger Ebert, Kenneth Turan and Alexander Walker.
The gleeful irreverence is infectious, all very hearty-backslap men-among-men, but a proper chuckle with it.
Like this macho extra, the Blu-rayification of Fincher’s fastest, funniest, finest film feels wrong, yet oh so right. Here’s a mordant satire that aimed brazen broadsides at consumerism from the fag end of a decade in which the idea of “disposable incomes” didn’t seem so fanciful. And now it has been repackaged for the consumer heaven of hi-def in a period burnt by the recession.
Shouldn’t The Most Dangerous Film Of Its Day look like a period piece from innocent times, when we could afford to hoot about the pickle our decadence had put us in? And when we could afford costly homeents upgrade discs we’ve probably got already?
Actually, that irony is a measure of Fincher and original novelist Chuck Palahniuk’s prophetic instincts. Now more than ever, we are Jack’s cold shiver of existential panic, hemmed in by the fallouts from “stuff” fetishism. Fincher’s spin on Palahniuk’s tale of modern man’s malaise seemed tailored to match a millennial moment, but the film’s sting still rings.
The hook of the wage slave (Norton) plunged into insomnia and extreme anxiety by his rapacious “Ikea nesting instinct” resonates, as do the neo-fascistic undertones that cleave to philosophical anarcho-punk Tyler Durden (Pitt). The bare-chested dust-ups and black-shirted, shaven-headed terrorist activities echo the kind of reactionary regressions that tend to fester in troubled times.
Sure, Fincher acts irresponsibly, flirting with notions of nihilism and, via Pitt’s limber allure, audience identifications with Nietzsche-spouting ‘übermensch’ sorts. Moral certainties are unsettled as surely as are the grounds of fantasy and reality. But it’s also possible to view Club as a subliminal warning, a sort of Dr Strangelove for the ’00s, one that isn’t dreary enough to give answers but knows that charismatic stars and men’s movements are no solution to any crisis.
That explains Fincher’s reputation as a dark knight holding up a cracked mirror to a world gone wrong and teasing twisted prophecies from the ragged reflection. But as Fincher’s meticulous Blu-ray upgrade hotly proves, he’s also a prince of stylistic darkness. Tyler’s gone-to-seed Victorian mansion (its shabby fringes Fincher’s home from home) exudes a grubby lustre. Night scenes gain deserved depth.
When the film’s close returns us to our ring-side seat for “the collapse of financial history” at the skyscraper-tumbling “ground zero” – and yes, those falling towers of capitalist endeavour do elicit a shiver – the impact feels formally and thematically deeper and darker than before. And Helena Bonham Carter’s tar-black get-up hasn’t looked more goth this side of Tim Burton.
Sound-wise, prepare for a right old ear-wallop. Whack up the volume and the plane collision shocks anew – as does the smack of cheek on concrete. Fittingly, an excellent nu-ray extra takes note of sound’s importance in the movie’s mix of naturalism and impressionistic headspaces.
Club’s sound designer Ren Klyce dissects sonic moods and textures, revealing how walnut-stuffed chicken carcasses and baseball bats helped him to craft singular fist/face splats. You can also remix key tracks – an appropriately interactive feature for a film that doesn’t so much require as demand viewers’ active interpretations.
Extras from previous DVD releases cross over, too, four talk-tracks among them. The result is one jam-packed disc, although glitches hampered the navigation on the review copy. Ours froze in shifting from some extras to the main menu, while the lack of a pop-up menu made getting around otherwise slow. Given that the disc goes to great lengths in utilising a snazzy new multi-branch search option under the ‘Insomnia Mode’ tag, you would hope these niggles don’t let down the final product.
Mostly, though, this release emphatically isn’t just more “shit we don’t need”. Top-notch Blu-ray action teases Fincher’s forms and themes into a package hotter and tighter than Pitt’s ripped abs. One warning, mind: like many consumer desirables, it intensifies addiction.
Time at the Club will leave you howling for Se7en on Blu-ray.
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