“I’m not Paul Avery” Random Thoughts About Zodiac, part 1

Zodiac is one of my favorite films directed by David Fincher. There, I said it. I have nothing against Fight Club or Seven, it’s just that I prefer Zodiac. It’s just an opinion.

Zodiac is close in spirit to Seven, but unfortunately it is based on a true story. Maybe the fact that no one actually knows who the Zodiac is kept a lot of people from the theatres, however I think unsolved mysteries can make for great films. I do hope that someday someone finally finds out who the Zodiac is/was; not for me but for the families of the victims, and for those who survived the attacks.

In tems of a filmgoing experience I often enjoy movies that don’t wrap everything up in a nice, neat package; in real life it isn’t a good thing. The film leaves us asking a lot of questions, and some people are uncomfortable with that, and in this case maybe they should be. Then again there are a lot of people who didn’t know that Lincoln dies at the end of Lincoln.

Zodiac is two types of films welded together, but that is not a bad thing. The first part is reminiscent of All the President’s Men, but then again you could say that about any film where one or more of the main characters is a newspaper reporter. The obvious exception being the Superman films.

The Woodward and Bernstein of Zodiac are San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery and political cartoonist Robert Graysmith. If you think this is an odd pairing you would be correct. For a lot of the movie they don’t really work together; Graysmith spends a lot of time looming around Avery’s desk. Oh, and digging around in Avery’s wastebasket. A lot of people think that Greysmith is a few animals short of a zoo. Or that he’s animal crackers.

I love Robert Downey, Jr’s portrayal of Avery; so much so that I wish he would do more dramas. Not that there is anything wrong with Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes, I’m just saying I believe he has an Oscar worthy performance in him.

The second part of Zodiac is a somewhat Hitchcockian tale of obsession on the part of Robert Graysmith. In another lifetime Jake Gyllenhaal would have made a great Hitchcock protagonist.

Graysmith continued investigating the Zodiac case even though the killings stopped. But then again Zodiac did keep sending letters to newspapers and the police in which he took credit for murders he obviously didn’t commit.

For a while there the San Francisco Police Department thought that one of their own detectives, David Toschi, was responsible for one of the letters. Some people thought that Toschi was a bit of a publicity hound. In a way he kind of was.

By this point most of the various police departments involved had moved on. I don’t think it was for the victims families, but rather Graysmith’s own need to know that kept him going all these years. Some people are like that.


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