When David Fincher went out to the Netflix FYSEE event on Friday of course his infamous meticulousness was brought up — people always want to know how many takes did he do for a given scene. That meticulous is one of the reasons he’s among my favorite directors. The best of them are careful, deliberate and richly detailed. You can watch their work over and over again and find things you could never really get on first pass. Most films, most TV shows, can’t pass this test. But Fincher’s projects always do. Recently I found myself a bit obsessed with Se7en. I’ve always loved it but for some reason I never did a close watch of it — meaning, watching it a few times over to see what’s buried there. I might have to make the argument that it’s a perfect film. I can say with certainty it is much better than I thought it was — and certainly than the critics thought it was at the time. It has aged extraordinarily well, as relevant today as it was the year it was released. Not to get off on a Se7en tangent — just go back and look at the chase scene with Brad Pitt in pursuit of Kevin Spacey, look at the bars and lines put in the camera’s view; just watch how those are deployed throughout that entire sequence, it’s a wow — but just to say that he brings that same careful deliberation to Mindhunter, which I’ve watched a few times all the way through.
Mindhunter is better than anything seen in theaters so far this year and will probably end the year better than most theatrical releases. It still fits in the box of “television” — as critics struggle come to grips with this bizarre evolutionary shift we’re living through. They want to call it a new “golden age of television” — and they do that optimistically, believing film will also be as good as it’s always been. But what if it isn’t?
Either way, Mindhunter comes at the forefront of a time when streaming TV series have attracted discerning eyeballs. It has grabbed our attention. In fact, the content can’t even come close to meeting the demand. There are so many good shows on now, our appetites and expectations continue to crave more. And sure, the contrast is the more striking while broadcast networks are still stuck in the reality-TV/competition kind of crap like the Bachelor, new channels have opened up for risk-taking, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. Still, it almost seems like Mindhunter, and I’d add the Handmaid’s Tale to this, are so good they seem to be their own kind of animal — a new medium that is neither TV or Film but feels a lot like the epic cinema not seen in theaters for decades.
The scene brought up in an Indiewire story is the one featuring Happy Anderson wherein Fincher reportedly did 75 takes. Some might think that’s absurd — what he could he possibly get with the 75th take that he hadn’t seen in the 10th? Well, watch it and you’ll see. Actually, don’t just watch it. Close watch it. Minute to minute. Second to second and you’ll see.
Mindhunter is streaming on Netflix