Film

Fight Club (1999) revisited with Chuck Palanuik and Jim Uhls

I’d rewatched Fight Club a few nights ago, I actually remember watching it in 98/99 in the middle of the day in an empty theatre – I was seventeen and obviously thought it was greatest film I’d seen since Goodfellas.
For a Hollywood movie, it seemed so different and contemporary compared to anything that came out around that time, although Trainspotting, Twelve Monkeys had come out a few years before, and  others from that time such as  American Beauty, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Matrix and Saving Private Ryan, I think definitely filled a void and changed the tone Hollywood cinema which had been stagnant for some time.
On the commentary I’d listened to the author Chuck Palanuik and screenwriter Jim Uhls, who’d amazing also worked on The Graduate 1968, which had some similar ‘angryyoungman’ themes to Fight Club, discuss the film. I’d also read the book, which even less sense then the film, and doesn’t rely on the multiple identity narrative plot twist to give the story and characters a coherent structure.
Palanuik had actually based the film on an incident that happened while he was on vacation hiking on a mountain. One night he’d heard another group camping close to him who’d decided for some reason to have a party and play music on stereo at full volume. He couldn’t believe that people would hike all the way out into the wilderness to have an all night party, and when he’d gone to ask them to turn it down a fight ensued. The next day, when he went to work in the job he hated, he’d noticed that people would avoid or talk to him about anything rather than ask him what happened over the weekend or what he did in his free time that caused him to have a battered face.
Palanuik would make jokes, and remember how alot of the lines and scenes in the film were based things that his friends had said, such as Jack’s knowledge of the motor fatality claims, the soap making, the exploding condo and the phrase ‘we are all singing and all dancing crap of the world’. But the improve lines ‘I consider this asshole tax’, ‘fuck Martha Stewart’,’Run Forest Run’ and ‘Lead Salad’, Palanuik attributed to the actors or Uhls.
Listening to them talk, I got the distinct impression that either Uhls didn’t like the film that much or found talking to author Palanuik intimidating or disturbing, as he mostly kept quiet or gave laconic responses to the writer’s questions. I’ll assume both writers are from different backgrounds and eras, and as subversive and ‘New Wave’ The Graduate was in 1968, I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined the vision of violence, slapstick and absurd chaos that Fight Club would portray.
Although the Fox Studios had supported the film and Fincher’s vision, and there little resistant from them, during the post-coital bedroom scene between Tyler and Marla, the original line had been ‘I want to have your abortion’, which the studio had asked Fincher to change, and they’d switched to ‘You make  me feel like I’m in third grade’ – which the studio then asked to change back but Fincher refused. After the release, the writers would attend a promotion party in which 300 guests attended wearing name badges saying ‘I want to have Tyler Durden’s abortion’.
Like The Graduate, Fight Club feels somewhat dated now, and very MTV gimmicky, especially compared to films like Dark Night Returns, Donnie Darko, End of Watch, Sin City, Gangs of New York, MadMax Fury Road, Dredd, Drive, Watchmen, Deadpool and a hundred other violent films.
It was interesting listening the writers talk about the homo eroticism in the relationship between ‘Jack’ and his imaginary friend Tyler Durden. And I’d noticed until now that Marla, Jack’s love interest, and Tyler both seem to dress similarly in different scenes, wearing furcoats and sunglasses. From a psychoanalytic perspective, I suppose you could describe this as a mingling between the conflict of the ‘ego’ and ‘superego’, and whatever emotional disruption is bubbling to surface from the unconscious, Jack’s ‘Id’.
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