Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 08
October 15, 1999
Fight Club released

Ten years ago today, David Fincher’s Fight Club electrified American filmgoers with its dark and compelling vision of a disenfranchised generation of young men. The film, based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk, told the story of an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) who is drawn into an underground organization – in which men bond by pounding the shit out of each other – after he befriends one of its leaders, the charismatic anarchist and soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Palahniuk had been inspired to write the book after he had noted the failure of his colleagues to acknowledge visible bruises he’d received after being beaten up one time. The novel’s uncompromisingly bleak and graphic vision of society made it a difficult film to adapt for commercial audiences (there was an infamous script report by a Fox reader slamming the project), however the challenge seemed perfect for director David Fincher, who brought his Se7en star Pitt on board as one of the leads. On its release, the star power of Pitt and Norton helped the film to be #1 at the box office on its opening weekend, however it ultimately was a disappointment commercially. Critics were split on the film at the time, with many disturbed by its uncompromising vision of violence, comparing it to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. However in the decade since its release, Fight Club has achieved cult status (greatly helped by its continued life on DVD) and has become accepted as one of the essential films of the 1990s.


More Flashbacks
December 8, 1978
The Deer Hunter released

In 1978, two very different Hollywood films for tackled the previously taboo subject of Vietnam: Hal Ashby's Coming Home (released in February '78) and Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, which debuted on December 8, 1978.

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December 8, 1861
Georges Melies Born

Born in the middle of the 19th century, Georges Méliès helped define film as the most important artform of the 20th century. The son of a shoe manufacturer, Méliès was fascinated more in stagecraft and puppetry than heels and soles. And while he eventually took over his father’s factory, he did so only to make enough money to buy the Theatre Robert Houdin in 1888. Soon he became a master showman, creating elaborate stage fantasies with magic and special effects. His life changed completely on December 28 1895, after he attended the Lumière brothers’ exhibition of their Cinématographe. From then on, he strove to marry the magic of theater with the magic of film. In 1896, a production gone wrong showed him the way. After a camera jammed, Méliès saw things wondrously disappear, then pop back in frame, as if by directed by a master magician. He started developing other special effects—a double exposure, a split screen, and a dissolve––to enhance film’s trickery. In 1902, his A Trip to The Moon became an instant classic, turning Méliès into one of film’s foremost artists. His success however could not be maintained. By 1913 his famous film company was sold off, leaving Méliès nearly penniless. Indeed the boy who turned to the arts to avoid making shoes watched as the celluloid from his films was used to patch soldiers shoes during World War I. Nearly lost to obscurity, Méliès was rediscovered in the 20s and awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1931. Now heralded as one the grandfathers of cinema, only 200 of his over 500 films remain.

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