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Lose yourself / Find yourself; In mysterious San Francisco
Did you know that David Fincher directed a 90’s thriller starring Michael Douglas? And that it was set in San Francisco? And that it was met with a “meh” reception from critics and the box office? Did you know this!? Before Fincher had become one of the U.S.’s most indispensable directors, he had directed some very successful music videos and two feature-length films: Alien 3 (1992) and Seven (1995). Speaking of Fincher’s indispensability, there are many who argue that The Social Network (2010) is the best film of the 2010s, and depending on how things continue to progress, it seems likely that this film will only grow in estimation as time wears on.
I typically don’t want to tell you much about any movie’s plot in this writing, as the joy of watching a new movie is going in as cold as possible to see, uninfluenced, how you may click with the film. I will say even less about The Game. Michael Douglas plays a wealthy investment banker (this is San Francisco just before tech became the overriding force in SF.) who receives an unusual gift from his brother (Sean Penn) for his 48th birthday.
The Game is one of the earliest movies I remember my family buying on a new format that was just taking off in the 90s: DVDs. Possibly before I was completely mentally prepared, around age 11, I watched The Game for the first time and had my tiny child-mind blown. I expected a revisit of the film to disappoint: how could a slow-burning thriller that is so deep yet clear to an 11-year-old possibly hold up for a 36-year-old? It’s a testament to Fincher’s abilities, even at this early stage of his career, and frankly, it’s a testament to a different kind of movie that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Two years later, The Sixth Sense will achieve the apex of the 90’s thriller and close out the decade.
While not entirely filmed in San Francisco, most exteriors, and the larger interior set-pieces are authentic SF locations. The Garden Court of the Palace Hotel, for example, pictured here:
Other notable locations are the Presidio, Pacific Heights, and the Financial District. Fincher is perhaps the Bay Area’s greatest champion in terms of film-making in the 21st century. A film I won’t recommend this month, but definitely worth your time, is Zodiac (2007) which makes excellent use of period cars and period San Francisco. (Spoiler: You don’t have to change San Francisco much to achieve a period look.) I enjoyed this map that Curbed put together taking you through the locations. But I digress.
The Game is a strong sign of things to come from one of America’s greatest working directors, and a glimpse into the recent past of a city that seems to always be changing while always staying the same. It captures the foggy mystery of an alluring city with beautiful views, many hidden streets, and a mysterious dark side.
Written by Larry Gross, John Brancato and Michael Ferris; Directed by David Fincher
Stray Thoughts from the Editor
Happy September! Starting this month, Movie Night will be hitting your inbox on Fridays rather than Mondays. Fridays are better for good news anyway. This September I’ll be focusing on movies filmed and set in the city I love to call home: San Francisco. San Francisco holds a strange place in the contemporary zeitgeist, but for me, it will always be a sleepy, foggy, hilly city where one can wear fall sweaters year-round. This was how my grandmother introduced me to it in the 90’s when I would come and visit, and this is part of what makes looking through the windows movies provide into the past so fun.
Lastly, a good friend of mine has started a Substack that I highly recommend: Recommendation of the Week by Chris Hollindale. For as long as I’ve known Chris, I’ve been able to call or text him when I get stuck in a media/art rut. He always answers the call with exceptional recommendations, and now I must enter the realm of fans that enjoyed his recs “before it was cool”, as he is making them widely available. Check his letter out, you won’t regret it!
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