Zodiac: Director's Cut
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Zodiac: Director's Cut

DVD

Blu-ray

Review of film

Earlier this year Paramount released the latest film from David Fincher, Zodiac. The film followed the lives of the police and reporters whose lives where forever changed by chasing the San Francisco serial killer known as Zodiac. Now, they close out the year with a special Director’s Cut of the film. This version runs about five minutes longer that the theatrical edition but what really makes this worth while are the extras that Paramount has included. This is a full scale two disc special edition that will be a must have for any Fincher fan out there. A lot of distributors wait a little while and release an alternate version of a film and usually they are not worthy of the name ‘Special Edition’. This is not the case with Paramount. They are committed to giving a second release enough to make a person want to get it even if they own the original DVD release. Usually the additional material in the film is small enough so that only someone extremely familiar with the original can even tell the difference. This leaves the extra content the responsibility to give the fans the incentive to buy the same movie again. Paramount has succeeded very well in this area. First the obvious, the original DVD came in two variations, Pan & Scan and widescreen. Most serious film lovers would not touch the P&S version snow it has been dropped for the director’s cut. In its places is a Blu-ray version for those with high end systems. This version provides the very best in audio and video and is the way to go if at all possible for your system.

Disc One Extras

Commentary One:

David Fincher

Fincher gets right into some of the production decisions and debates that affected the film. There was a lot of discussion about his use of the Paramount logo from the time of the murders. He wanted to immediately establish the look and feel of a movie made in the seventies to help set the mood. In the first tracking shot of the homes in the area the killer moved in Fincher wanted a detached feel, similar to how the killer must have felt. He also wanted an analog feel tit to reinforce the period nature of the film. He also talks about finding the right music cues for the opening scene to get the audience back to the seventies. Fincher is a native of that part of California and was able to bring a lot of his childhood memories of the time intoo the film. One interesting topic he explores is how subjective a film has to be. As a director he has to do his best to find the right movements and shots to capture something that none can know how it actual transpired. He also had to digitally restore some of the San Francisco landmarks that were either destroyed in the earthquake or have been replaced over the years. He needed the city to look as close as possible to how it did during the murders. From a story telling point of view Fincher needed to show the relationship between Graysmith and his older son. Since this film is a departure from Fincher’s usual bizarre fantasy worlds he wanted to focus more on the real people and the actual situations. This commentary track goes a long way to explain why this movie is so different stylistically from the other Fincher films.

Commentary Two:

Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Brad Fincher – actors

Brad Fincher - producer, James Vanderbilt - screenwriter

James Ellroy - writer

This is more of a round table discussion of the film. First off Vanderbilt talks about how he came across the original book by Robert Graysmith as a teenager and fell in love with it. He liked how the author was personally involved and eventually personally affected by the hunt for this killer. As soon as Vanderbilt graduated film school he looked into the right and found that Disney owned them. They had a script but never made the film. He made a film with Brad and then found out the rights were available and they were able to start the project. Downey comments on the opening murder scene on how it was slow, that David Fincher was playing with the audience since everybody is going to know what happens to the couple in the car. Brad and Vanderbilt focus on how the information is given to the audience slowly to build the anticipation. This was necessary since the case is well known and there are few chances for a surprise. This is really a film about obsession and how it can take over a person’s life. They talk about little jokes that they tried for years to make work but they remain in the film now as a little inside joke. There is also a discussion about the use of jargon in the film. They chose not to explain it to the audience instead just let them pick it up as the film progresses. This commentary is nicely balanced with cast and crew but the crew does dominate the discussion.

Disc Two Extras

The second disc is divided into two sections; the Film and the Facts. This is a detailed and carefully thought out presentation of the film that far exceeds the original DVD release. If you are a fan of the movie or the case this is a must have even if you already have the first release.

The Film:
Zodiac Deciphered
Background on getting the film made
Blue Rock Springs – Filming the murders and the crew’s own investigation
The San Francisco Chronicle – Recreating the newspaper offices as a set
The Halls of Justice – Building a working police work place
Presidio Heights – Recreating a neighborhood
Lake Berryessa – Filming on location
Obsession – Bringing the psychological aspects to life
The Visual Effects of Zodiac – How they got the look and feel of the seventies
Previsualization – Computer modeling of the sets
Blue Rock Springs
Lake Berryessa
San Francisco
Theatrical Trailer

The Facts
This is Zodiac Speaking – a look at the actual case evidence
Lake Herman Road
Lake Berryessa
Blue Rock Springs
San Francisco
Prime Suspect – A consideration of the case’s main suspect: His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen

This is a detailed and carefully thought out presentation of the film that far exceeds the original DVD release. If you are a fan of the movie or the case this is a must have even if you already have the first release.

Posted 01/22/08

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