A few highlights from “Behind Button: A Conversation with David Fincher,” hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Kent Jones to close out their Fincher retrospective pairing the director’s work with films he likes, a set-up that yielded the whiplash double feature of “Se7en” and “Mary Poppins.”
He was drawn to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” because it seemed to offer “a more complete telling of a love story… because it involved one being there to help the other pass on,” and found that “there were a lot of moments in the script that were semi-clichés” that he believed were overturned by the backward-aging structure. His original conception of the visual style of the film was based on Andrew Wyeth, sparse, fields of grain and lots of shots over characters’ shoulders, something that went out the window upon seeing New Orleans.
On the aforementioned double feature: “‘Mary Poppins’ was important to me as a three year old. I don’t know what it has to do with ‘Se7en.'” When asked about the possibility of a “Se7en” sequel: “I would have less interest in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes.” And on another selection of his that was screened in the series: “Chinatown is one of the five perfect films ever made. I mean it’s perfect. [beat] I take umbrage with some of the handheld…”
The line that Blanchett delivers in her character’s unsuccessful attempt to seduce Benjamin at the gazebo, one that was conceived as something to utterly damped his ardor — “Benjamin, I’ve been with older men!” — was Fincher’s: “I think it’s one of the great turn-off lines.”
When confronted by someone who said they didn’t like “Button” because it didn’t feel like a Fincher film: “I can only give me standard answer: I can’t apologize enough.”
And on the film’s point, as a whole: “That youth is not wasted on the young…[To age] is the best way that we’re built for. That however lonely we may feel now, living your life in the other direction would be just as difficult.”
[Photo: Fincher on the set of “Button,” Paramount, 2008]