This Week in Film: March 2, 2007

Jake Gyllenhaal and ChlĂśe Sevigny star in the David Fincher detective thriller Zodiac

Even before I picked my jaw up shortly after seeing The Departed grab Best Picture, James Cameron (as only he could) decided to steal the thunder from Martin Scorsese by announcing to the world that he and a fellow Canadian documentarian had (supposedly) discovered the bones of Jesus Christ. "My God", I presumably thought to myself, "the RaĂŤlians have done it again." But I'll give Cameron the benefit of the doubt until I see something fishy in The Lost Tomb of Christ, which airs Sunday March 6 on Discovery.

It's a pity the Academy typically forgets about the movies that come out during this time of year, because David Fincher is back, and unlike the smaller scaled Panic Room (still a deftly made thriller), the former music video director and now one of the most talented visualists working today is back with an ambitious and muscular film. The buzz around Zodiac has been extremely positive: "[it] shakes you up in ways you don't see coming" (Peter Travers - Rolling Stone) to calling it "cerebral, meticulous, haunting" (Glenn Kenny - Premiere)

It also marks a welcome return to the clever serial killer genre for Fincher, whose Se7en is a near-masterpiece crafted from the Hitchcockian template of delaying information and heavy reliance on viewer imagination. And not unlike Hitchcock, Fincher is a perfectionist, notorious for demanding outrageous amounts of takes and retakes from his actors, hence shooting Zodiac on high end video (with the Thomas Viper FilmStream -- a first for an American feature) would not only be economical but also allow for the finest tuning and mounting of such a prodigious vision. Just from the look of the trailer, the incredibly wide, scoped compositions promises to be a treat for the cine-aesthetes (like me).

The story, based on the true unsolved crimes, centers around a series of grisly murders in which the unknown killer brazenly taunts detectives with notes and letters scrawled with cryptic messages. It's the perfect story for Fincher to once again hone the techniques he has already mastered.

A talented visualist in his own right (and possibly a great one someday), Craig Brewer returns with his sophomore effort Black Snake Moan, which also opens this weekend. The film looks like a weird piece of Faulkner-esque Southern Gothic destined to divide audience with its quirky and overtly sexual imagery. I mean, just look at the poster -- the premise is right there: a well-weathered black man (Samuel L. Jackson) sporting a ragged wife-beater finds a young white nymphomaniac (Christina Ricci) incapacitated on the side of the road, brings her home and chains her to his bedpost. If you didn't know Brewer wrote and directed the acclaimed Hustle and Flow, you probably would've mistakenly thought the premise was for some booty movie made by Snoop Dogg.

Opening this Week:

Zodiac *
Black Snake Moan *
Seven Swords (@ The Royal)
Missing Victor Pellerin (@ The Royal)
Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple (@ Bloor Cinema - March 7)

(* = Recommended)

On the Radar:

Hulk Begins/Reloaded/Resurrection/Undo/Redo to start shooting this summer in Toronto. (Thanks to Matt for the early post)

Plans to remake David Cronenberg's splatter classic 'Scanners' underway. Because with today's technology, they can make exploding heads look so much more realistic.

(Photo: Paramount Pictures)

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